Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Google, Wiki, others go black to protest SOPA/PIPA

Google, Wikipedia and a host of other websites are either going dark or making huge, unmistakable statements on their homepages as part of an effort to stop Internet piracy legislation that is being considered by the US Congress.

The online encyclopedia, the tenth most popular website in the US, shut down most of its English-language services and replaced its familiar white and gray design with a black homepage featuring information about the bills. Known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the legislation—backed by major American media companies—would allow the Justice Department to seek a court order requiring US search engines to scrub certain results from the sites, among other antipiracy measures. Critics of the bills argue that the bills are poorly constructed, quite dangerous and won't actually address the real problem of piracy. They cite the requirement for US-based sites to actively police links to purported infringing sites as both unrealistic. As in the case of SOPA's Spanish counterpart, the Sinde law (which I talked about in this post), critics worry about the ambiguous and overly broad legislative language.

Although the bills are apparently losing support, they are not dead yet. Media giants (see list) are still lobbying for the passage of the bills with all their might (and money). I had already voiced my opposition against any form of censorship in the internet in a previous post. Bills like SOPA and PIPA go way too far in “protecting intellectual property” to the point of censorship.

From a civil rights standpoint, the bills undermine the freedom of speech and exchange of ideas that sit at the very heart of the Internet. The self-policing requirement threatens the viability of free websites, such as Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Looking at it from an economic perspective, the bills would pose a very high barrier to entry for startup businesses. Small-scale entrepreneurs will have to invest money on censorship utilities, which they otherwise would have no need for. While the bills, if enacted, would apply only to the US, it could potentially set a precedent for the rest of the world
—potentially a prelude to the untimely demise of the internet as we know it.

Source: WSJ

Francis Paolo Tiopianco, Entry #5

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