Today the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, that so many rely on for its expediency and wealth of information, went dark for the duration of the day in an effort to protest the anti-piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA. Students crashing last-minute papers are most certainly missing it right about now.
Wikipedia, Google, Wired, TwitPic, Reddit, Flicker, WordPress, along with many others sites, also blacked out pages and temporarily shut down. Even LOL cats are protesting! These websites argue innovation, free speech, and the promotion of new technology will be crippled if the bills are passed. Techies are worried this kind of legislation could allow feds to shutdown sites without due process, potentially limiting the Internet's collective ability to provide a platform for free speech.
SOPA, which stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, an acronym for Protect IP Act, are working their way through Congress in an effort to eradicate online piracy and infringement. In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was put into effect with the purpose of making copyright infringement illegal. But the act does not protect against overseas sites. Each year, the American people pay the price for such infringements in the ballpark of billions of dollars. These two bills are aimed at stopping the illegal downloads and streaming of movies and TV shows.
Expectedly, Motion Picture Association of America which advocates to protect the intellectual property of its members who include Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Paramount Pictures Corporation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., to name a few, is in full support of SOPA.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: MSNBC.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and Comcast/NBC Universal. Microsoft publicly opposes SOPA in its current form, while Comcast/NBC Universal is listed as a supporter of SOPA on the House Judiciary Committee website.)
Chairmen and CEO of MPAA, former Senator Chris Dodd, referred to websites blacking out their pages as an "abuse of power."
"It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today," said Dodd in a statement. "It's a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests."
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fiercely opposes the bills. He released his own statement, posted to his Facebook wall, of course:
The Internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can't let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the Internet's development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the Internet. The world today needs political leaders who are pro-Internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-Internet.
In lieu of the massive web blackout, support for SOPA and PIPA appears to be waning. MSNBC.com reported at least six lawmakers dropped their support of the bills, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a PIPA co-sponsor.
Many more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their opposition via Twitter. Finally, something they can agree upon.
Do you support SOPA and PIPA? Give us your take in the comment section below or tweet us.
— By Bonnie Jordan