If you think Wikipedia is down this week, you’re right. Wikipedia, which is the sixth most popular site in the world, along with hundreds of other sites, will go dark this week for 24 hours to protest SOPA and PIPA, two bills that have been introduced in Congress to address internet piracy and protect copyright holders.
Major internet players are united in their opposition to the bills, saying they are in direct conflict with the ideal of an open Internet — “the bills could require your Internet provider to block websites that are involved in digital file sharing. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing could be stopped from linking to them.” (ABC News)
SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — was introduced to the House in October of last year and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) was brought to the Senate in May of last year. Support in Congress for these bills is split, and not neatly down party lines. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the bill in October, saying that foreign piracy websites are “stealing our profits, they’re stealing our jobs and they may be endangering the health of Americans.” (NY Times) Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) opposes the bill, believing it “to be hazardous to the infrastructure, speed and security of the Internet.”
The two bills set off a maelstrom of protest and uproar from the internet community last November. Major technology corporations, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, have issued statements opposing the legislation. There are “Stop SOPA” websites, movements, petitions, email and phone campaigns.
The White House came out last weekend with a statement written by three White House managers, including Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer that the downside of the two bills outweighs the upside:
“we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet… Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small."
The vote on SOPA has been delayed until consensus is reached on the bill. PIPA is still scheduled to be voted on in the Senate next week.
For more information on SOPA and PIPA, visit these links:
- Wikipedia Blackout,’ SOPA and PIPA Explained (ABC News)
- Why the ESA is Wrong to Support SOPA (Forbes)
- Sopa Blackout Site
- Google will protest SOPA using popular home page (c|net)
- What is SOPA and how does it work? The Stop Online Piracy Act explained (The Verge)
- What you need to know about SOPA in 2012 (Read Write Web)