Over the last couple of months, we’ve been keeping you up to date on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). While its supporters say that the legislation is needed to safeguard intellectual property rights and protect jobs, SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act (it’s Senate counterpart) would fundamentally change the Internet by censoring websites that purportedly enable copyright infringement or piracy.
There are many who will deny that piracy is a growing problem, but the answer to the problem is not SOPA, PROTECT IP, or any other bill that would promote government censorship of the Internet and, as Mark Lemley, David Levine, and David Post have noted, remove due process protections for sites accused of copyright infringement. These bills would also tinker with DNS filtering, which would block “offending” websites from being accessed by Internet service providers.
As you can imagine, the consequences of these two bills has many websites owners on edge. The prospect of an entire site being essentially wiped off of the web due to a single instance of copyright infringement, even if it’s unintended, has many ready to fight back. That’s why today many big names are either blacking out their sites in protest of SOPA/PIPA — among them are Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, and Wordpress.org. Others, such as Google, are hoping to educate vistors of the dangers of these two bills.
In new video, Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit explained some of the concerns with SOPA/PIPA and also pointed out that many members of Congress simply don’t understand what exactly they are doing with the legislation put before them:
It has been reported in recent days that SOPA has been shelved, largely because the Obama Administration came out against certain provisions of the bill. It looks like that isn’t the case. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the primary sponsor of SOPA, said yesterday that the markup of the legislation would continue at some point next month. Smith and the MPAA and other special interests that are supporting SOPA have taken DNS provisions in the bill off the table, which may make it more palatable to some, but certainly isn’t nearly enough to sway opponents.
While the future of SOPA is murky, PIPA has been scheduled for a vote next week — Tuesday, January 24th — by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Some Republicans members have asked that the vote be delayed due to concerns with the bill’s likely negative impact, including infringing on free speech and stifiling innovation.
Some members of Congress, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), are pushing compromise legislation, the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act). This bill, which its sponsors claim protects speech and promotes innovation, has been endorsed by many of the companies, including Google and Yahoo!, that are opposing SOPA and PIPA.
While we aren’t shutting down today, we will be, as a sign of solidarity, posting several pieces throughout the day from the past couple of months about SOPA to help educate readers about the bill and its consequences. We’ll also have some newer posts mixed in, as well.
If you haven’t already, call the members of your state’s congressional delegation and politely ask them to oppose SOPA, PIPA, and any other piece of legislation that would allow our government to censor the Internet.