Twitter feeds have been buzzing with chatter, hash tagged with words like SOPA, PIPA, censorship and blackout. Wikipedia, with estimated daily web traffic numbering in the tens of millions, was dark Wednesday, Jan. 18, in protest of recent legislature working its way through the US House Judiciary Committee.
The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act were designed to help stop the proliferation of copyright infringement on the Internet.
The issue that web companies like Wikipedia, Google, Twitter and Facebook have with the legislature is the ambiguous nature of the wording about what actions would constitute piracy, and what lengths the government could potentially take to punish offending sites. Essentially, a company that feels their copyrights have been infringed upon could petition the government to not only remove the instance of infringement, but shut down the entire website upon which the infraction occurred.
Imagine the limitless reach of the Department of Homeland Security and the unquestioned authority of the Patriot Act combined with the agenda of a private company.
Facebook’s position of opposition reflects the vast majority of the opinions expressed across the Internet. While it stands firm against piracy and copyright infringement, Facebook states that SOPA and PIPA “could create very real problems for Internet companies” and “seriously hamper the innovation, growth, and investment in new companies that have been the hallmarks of the Internet.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg adds to that on a Facebook post, writing, “We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the Internet’s development.”
Reports say that between 12:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Jan. 18, named SOPA blackout day, there were over 2.4 million tweets about SOPA.
Despite the united resistance throughout the information superhighway, there are still nearly 150 companies on the list of supporters for the legislature. Most of them, according to Mashable.com, are “record labels, book publishers, film studios and TV networks.”
Of course those kinds of companies have a vested interest in increased scrutiny and enforcement of copyright laws. The thing is, nobody is disputing the idea that piracy is bad for the entertainment industry as a whole, as well as illegal. The issue is the encroachment on First Amendment rights these acts would allow.
The government would have the power and authority to literally shut down any site, at any time, for any reason.
Go Daddy, a web hosting company that, until recently, provided servers for Wikipedia, recently removed themselves from the list of supporters released by the US House Judiciary Committee. Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman cited a spike in their customers turning to alternate web hosting service providers, along with a lack of follow-through with the judiciary committee:
“Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.”
In addition to the blackouts and Internet-wide opposition, demonstrations were held in cities across the U.S. including Seattle, New York and San Francisco, followed by a shrinking list of congressmen who supported the legislature.
The official Senate vote was scheduled for Jan. 24, but the bill was retracted. Sen. Lamar Smith of Texas pulled the legislature Friday, Jan. 20, after “hacktivists,” claiming allegiance to a group called Anonymous, shut down several websites belonging to U.S. authorities, music companies, as well as other advocates of increased control over copyright law.
Jeff Jacobsen – Online Content Manager