Until today, have you heard of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA)? It’s not surprising if you haven’t. Unless you read the tech blogs, you probably didn’t come across a story about in your morning news scan. But, if you use the Internet in almost any way, then it’s time to pay attention.
SOPA and PIPA are two bills currently pending Congressional approval. If passed into law, they would criminalize the posting or linking of just a few unauthorized pieces of copyrighted content a month. Meaning possible jail time. In addition to the site being blocked by the government. The bill was made to supposedly target true piracy sites like ‘The Pirate Bay’ – but the possible implications are much more far-reaching.
Unlike current law, which doesn’t hold the web host responsible for user-generated copyright violations, this bill would penalize sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter for links and postings by users. So, for example, if 10 people tweet a link to a movie clip without the studio’s permission, Twitter can be shut down, while be charged with criminal violations. With many sites having millions (or billions) of users, there’s no way to really monitor every possible violation, so many of these sites would simply shut themselves down, knowing its only a short matter of time until charges would be brought against them.
I’m all for protecting IP, but these bills just don’t sit well with me – and I’m not alone. But despite the impact they could have on people’s daily visits to the web, it wasn’t getting much attention outside of the tech world. Until today.
Taking a page right out of the Occupy protestors’ book, the tech and internet community is staging its own protests. Today Reddit is blacking out its site for 12 hours while its co-founder testifies against the bill in front of Congress. Wikipedia is blacking out the entire English version of its website for 24 hours. Google has blacked out its logo on it, and is encouraging its users to read up on the bill. And many sites, such as Tumblr, have already staged their own protests.
I encourage you to read up on the bill and let us know what you think. How much have you heard of these bills before today? Do you have concerns about how they could impact your ability to do your job (especially you PR and marketing professionals)? Does they go too far? Is the web and tech community overreacting? We’d love to hear your take.
(To learn more about SOPA, check out Declan McCullagh’s article in CNet that explains SOPA. He breaks it down so even non-techies like me can understand it.)