Google, Reddit, BoingBoing join Wikipedia in Protest of Government Regulation of the Internet
A number of heavy-weight websites are going dark today or otherwise protesting government bills that many people feel will limit freedom of speech and set a precedent of internet censorship.
What are SOPA and PIPA?
- SOPA is the “Stop Online Piracy Act” and PIPA is the Protect IP Act with “IP” standing for intellectual property. SOPA is a bill in the United States House of Representatives and PIPA is a bill in the United States Senate.
What are the bills designed to do?
- The bills are supposed to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign websites.
What’s the problem with PIPA and SOPA?
- The concern is that the bills are structured in a manner that instead of protecting copyrighted information and protecting websites they will lead to censorship.
- The bill is drafted in such a way that if your website links to a site that illegally uses copyrighted material, you could be held liable.
- SOPA potentially holds companies liable for users’ actions.
- SOPA will allow the government to target sites that simply provide information that could help users get around the bills’ censorship mechanisms. Telling users about a “work around” could be illegal.
- SOPA gives the Attorney General the ability to act against infringing websites without a court hearing or trial.
- The United States Attorney General could close down websites which infringe copyrights, as well as ban them from using online paying facilities such as PayPal and Visa.
- Sanctions could prohibit Google from ranking certain websites in search results or linking to them.
Aren’t The Bills Dead?
- No, neither SOPA nor PIPA is dead. On January 17th, SOPA’s sponsor said the bill will be discussed in early February. There are signs PIPA may be debated on the Senate floor next week.
- Intellectual property should be protected. Stealing another’s work is a crime. Protecting original work is part of encouraging new ideas and fostering creativity. Making sure copyrighted material is protected and that the creator is properly compensated should resulting in greater revenue and further jobs. However, this bill is too broad. In an attempt to stay in business website owners will be forced to constantly censor their content and consequently what you, the end user, sees.
For more information on the bills or to read various statements, click on the following links: