If you have tried opening the English site of Wikipedia last January 18, you would have gotten a black window explaining the reasons why the content you requested for can’t be displayed.
Wikipedia was unavailable for 24 hours starting 5 AM of January 18 to show their protest against the proposed legislation in the United States House of Representatives for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.
They have released this press release last January 16 to explain their protest:
“the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.”
What is SOPA? Why are big Internet sites like Wikipedia, Google, BoingBoing and more, protesting against it?
SOPA is an anti-piracy bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chair and Texas Republican Lamar Smith, along with 12 co-sponsors. Once approved, it will give movie studios and record labels the power to just request the shutdown of foreign sites that they believe have committed a copyright infringement. This means that intellectual property owners can easily request an ISP to block access to that site, to request Google to remove the site from its index (which is equivalent to your site being non-existing) or to request PayPal not to accept payment to and from that site, even without a court investigation.
This means that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, and many other sites have a potential of being shutdown just like that. If a user for example posted a self-recorded video in YouTube with the music of Adele as the background, record labels can interpret this as a copyright infringement and can request for the shutdown of YouTube. These sites should therefore put a good effort in monitoring every Tweet, every wall status, every videos uploaded and posted on their site as it may cause the shutdown of the site if IP owners deemed it as breaking the provisions of SOPA. Sites like Facebook received millions of post per day, which means that it is impossible for any site to police everything that is posted. This puts them at a greater risk of being eradicated in the WWW.
Of course the netizens were outraged by the proposed bill and so millions have supported the petition started by Google to stop the bill. But at least the sponsors of the legislation have listened to the critics and the feedbacks that SOPA received which brings the bill back to the drawing board as the authors of the legislation decided to redraft it.
The aim of SOPA and PIPA are both good as it can help prevent the thieves from stealing American products and inventions but the means on how it will be implemented is the one that is questionable and should really be reconsidered.
Author’s Bio: Abie is a freelance article writer who works for tshirtprinting.org, a brand new site which offers professional T shirt printing and personalized clothing.