Today, major websites from Wikipedia to Craigslist to Reddit to icanhazcheezeburger will go dark, in protest of SOPA, the misleadingly named “Stop Online Piracy Act.” SOPA is championed by Texas Republican Lamar Smith, and if it passes it would end the Internet as we know it. Burnt Orange Report isn't blacking out completely — rather, we're “graying out” and posting only SOPA-related content all day to help our readers understand how these bills threaten the Internet we know and love.
While the laws are written with the intent to prevent overseas piracy of copyrighted goods and materials, as written they are an unprecedented power grab that will force Internet service providers to block domains linked to URLS accused of piracy. The laws as written do not allow accused sites due process, and impose burdensome costs and rules that would destroy the Internet as we know it. The bills were apparently written by lobbyists for the music and movie industry, who have grown frustrated with the inability to go after international sites full of pirated copyrighted American content. That's an understandable and laudable concern, as it hurts the artists, but SOPA and PIPA are not the answer.
If these bills are passed, the ensuing laws will give media companies and Internet service providers too much power to block websites that are merely accused of abusing copyrights. The bill makes social media sites that have user-generated content responsible for all of that content, and open to lawsuits for anything posted on said sites. It also makes payment processors and ad networks liable to be sued by content providers directly if they knowingly or unknowingly promote copyright-infringed copyright without due process. It's a wonky issue, but essentially the bills as written are so poorly defined that they could bring down any website or Internet service provider for merely being accused of infringement. To learn more, click here to watch a video from Tech Crunch with Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures, who provides an accessible explanation of how these bills will break the Internet.
What should you do? First, learn more about these bills. While the English-laguage Wikipedia has joined the Blackout, they have left two pages up for public view — SOPA and PIPA. Second, do something. Speak up. There's a host of links at the bottom of this post with which to educate yourselves and take action.
For many of us that depend on the Internet for our lives and our work, this is a deeply personal and troubling issue. The Internet is the medium of our time. SOPA threatens its essential vitality. This unprecedented power-grab imperils the way in which our society has managed to develop interpersonal bonds in a world that otherwise leaves us increasingly fragmented and alone. This bill will wreak havoc on the social media networks, websites, and Internet service providers that give us access to one another.
The notion that any site at any time could be pulled down for being merely accused of piracy is deeply threatening, especially for those of us who engage in web-based organizing, advocacy, and journalism. The freewheeling free speech and flow of ideas on the Internet is what we rely on to do our jobs. Without the Internet, there would be no Burnt Orange Report, or any other progressive blog determined to bring you the stories of the day from an aggressively progressive perspective. If they become law, SOPA and PIPA will destroy the Internet as we know and love it.
Please take action below and join BOR in opposing SOPA and PIPA. I've also linked to a bunch of great resources that explain this nuanced issue in more depth.
Read Up On SOPA
- TechDirt — The Definitive Post On Why SOPA And Protect IP Are Bad, Bad Ideas
- Wikipedia — SOPA Initiative: Learn More
- CNET — How SOPA Would Affect You
- Craigslist — about > SOPA
- New York Times — Protest on Web Uses Shutdown to Take On Two Piracy Bills
- Washington Post — SOPA protests to shut down websites
- OWNI.eu — An Open Letter from Internet Engineers to the US Congress
- Black Out Your Site. PCCC has a handy chunk of code you can use to black out your site and add yourself to the list of websites fighting SOPA. Click here.
- Sign Google's Petition. The search giant has an amazing infographic and a petition you can sign to voice your opposition. Click here.
Throughout the day, BOR will be bringing you more information on SOPA. We hope you will join us in opposing this legislation, and blocking legislation that will end the Internet as we know it.
All #SOPA Coverage on BOR: