You may have visited Wikipedia today and noticed that the website has literally gone dark or maybe you landed on the Google homepage and saw the blacked out Google logo. This is occurring due to a protest of two proposed bills in the House and Senate. Multiple sites are objecting, including Wikipedia and Reddit who aren’t allowing user to access any of their sites content.
The two bills in dispute are the Protect IP Act (Senate) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (House). The main idea behind these bills is to stop the illegal downloading of movies and TV shows. According to the Washington Post, “they would impose restrictions forcing U.S. companies to stop selling online ads to suspected pirates, processing payments for illegal online sales and refusing to list Web sites suspected of piracy in search-engine results.”
Tech companies are concerned that if these bills pass they will provide the government with the ability to close websites if they think they are violating copyright laws. In addition, tech companies would have to monitor user generated sites.
For example, “Under the proposed legislation, if a copyright holder like Warner Brothers discovers that a foreign site is focused on offering illegal copies of songs or movies, it could seek a court order that would require search engines like Google to remove links to the site and require advertising companies to cut off payments to it.
Internet companies fear that because the definitions of terms like “search engine” are so broad in the legislation, Web sites big and small could be responsible for monitoring all material on their pages for potential violations — an expensive and complex challenge” (Wortham, 2012).
Andrew McLaughlin, vice president at Tumblr, “said the fear is that on large and diverse Web communities like Tumblr, any user who uploads an unauthorized clip from a movie or an unreleased track from an album is putting the whole company in the line of fire”.
Most companies support the current law that asks websites to take down content if asked by the copyright holder. Many sites, such as Tumblr and Wikipedia, are providing users with a means to contact their local legislators.
For more information see the following links:
Fahrenthold, D.A. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sopa-protests-to-shut-down-web-sites/2012/01/17/gIQA4WYl6P_story.html
Wortham, J. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/technology/web-wide-protest-over-two-antipiracy-bills.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&hp