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The Internet Sending A Loud Message
The Internet Sending A Loud Message

On Wednesday January 18th 2012 The Internet sent a loud message to the U.S. Congress in a coordinated blackout websites protesting the anti-piracy bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

About 75,000 websites took part in the protest on Wednesday. Wikipedia says 162 million people viewed the blackout landing page, 8 million U.S. visitors looked up Congressional representatives and 12,000 people posted comments on Wikimedia Foundation's blog post announcing the blackout.

Google confirmed that 4.5 million people signed the company's petition to protest SOPA and PIPA, while 350,000 emails were sent to representatives via SopaStrike.com and AmericanCensorship.org.

Twitter reported over 2.4 million SOPA-related tweets between 12 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST on Jan. 18, with the top five terms being SOPA, Stop SOPA, PIPA, Tell Congress and #factswithoutwikipedia.

So, what are SPOA and PIPA?

SOPA and PIPA are aimed at websites that infringe copyrighted material. The bills are commonly associated with media piracy, but may also apply to counterfeit consumer goods and medication.

Originally, both bills are intended to strengthen protections against copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, but Internet advocates say they would stifle expression on the World Wide Web.

What was going on?

The popular link-sharing site Reddit.com got the ball rolling for the 24-hour Internet blackout, Wikipedia has shut down for 24 hours in protest of these laws, Google has blackened its logo as a protest, Mark Zuckerberg Facebook’s founder expressed his opinion saying that the two laws are “poorly-thought out laws that get in the way of the internet’s development.”

In addition to Reddit and Wikipedia, other sites participating include BoingBoing, Mozilla, WordPress, TwitPic, MoveOn.org and the ICanHasCheezBurger network. Other sites -- like Twitter and Facebook -- oppose the legislation in question but didn’t participating in the blackout.

What does the legislation do?

There are already laws that protect copyrighted material, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But while the DMCA focuses on removing specific, unauthorized content from the Internet, SOPA and PIPA instead target the platform -- that is, the site hosting the unauthorized content.

The bills would give the Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites willfully committing or facilitating intellectual property theft -- "rogue" sites like The Pirate Bay. The government would be able to force U.S.-based companies, like Internet service providers, credit card companies and online advertisers, to cut off ties with those sites.

Why Internet companies oppose SOPA and PIPA?

Internet companies and their investors would readily say that they're holding the "blackout" to protect their corporate interests -- and the entire burgeoning Internet-based economy.

"The success of Reddit. is one of the smaller examples of the success that has happened in our industry -- and will continue to unless bills like SOPA or PIPA become law," Ohanian said Tuesday.

Under the rules SOPA or PIPA would impose, Ohanian and others argue, start ups wouldn't be able to handle the costs that come with defending their sites against possible violations. Such sites would not be able to pay the large teams of lawyers that established sites like Google or Facebook can afford.

Are the protests having any effect?

Shutting down Wikipedia for a day or blacking out the Google logo won’t stop these bills in their tracks, but they have raised an enormous amount of awareness about the issue. As a result, it is likely that these bills will continue to be amended and, though they may pass in some fashion, they are likely to be quite different than they were when first proposed.

Sources: Forbes.com, CNN.com, pcworld.com, cbsnews.com

Shaza Salem - Syrian Days
Thursday 2012-01-19  |  11:58:17   
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