SOPA & PIPA: The Web is as mad as hell and it's not going to take it anymore

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Allison Schiff, web editor, Direct Marketing News (is under there)
Allison Schiff, web editor, Direct Marketing News (is under there)

Remember that anti-piracy PSA that used to appear at the beginning of DVDs, the one that made a lot of presumptions like: “You wouldn't steal a car … you wouldn't steal a television … downloading pirated films is stealing.” Fair enough. But if passed, will the two pieces of anti-piracy legislation currently before Congress help stave off copyright infringement, or will they suppress the free and easy sharing of information that makes the Internet the World Wide Web?

Most websites, needless to say, are not at all happy with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate confrere, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), and many have instituted blackouts in protest to simulate what the Internet would be like if the bills went through. The Los Angeles Times aggregated a gallery of “sites on strike,” including Wikipedia, Wired and Google. When you go to Wikipedia's homepage, for example, it shows you the regular homepage for just an instant and then a moment later whisks you to an ominous black screen where it invites you to “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.” The SOPA page, however, is not blocked out, so interested visitors can learn more about the bill.

[A digression: SOPA & PIPA sound like names for puppies.]

Social news site reddit is also orchestrating a protest blackout. For 12 hours on Jan. 18, reddit went completely dark to “raise awareness” of SOPA & PIPA, which it claims “could radically change the landscape of the Internet.”

The reason websites are taking such issue with the acts is mainly because of their broad scope and vague wording. For example, from the SOPA summary: The bill would authorize the Attorney General to “seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy to require the owner, operator, or domain name registrant, or the site or domain name itself if such persons are unable to be found, to cease and desist further activities constituting specified intellectual property offenses under the federal criminal code including criminal copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation and trafficking of sound recordings or videos of live musical performances, the recording of exhibited motion pictures, or trafficking in counterfeit labels, goods, or services.”

That just about covers it.

As of right now, several congressmen who had previously lent their support to the bills are making semi-ignominious about-faces, according to CBS News [Hi there, Marco Rubio] — and it seems like others might reverse their stances, too.

In the interim, as the protest continues to swirl, please to enjoy this infographic from infojustice.org explaining the whole situation in a way that only an infographic can do.

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