A Dark Day for the Internet: The Blackout Protest
You may or may not have noticed, but today (18/01/12), many important occupants of the web are adhering to an ‘Internet Blackout’ in protest of two US anti-piracy bills that threaten to restrict their usage: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act).
In short, these legislations aim to clamp down on copyright infringement and intellectual property theft by foreign sites, for the benefit of big media companies. However, it is believed they will be doing so in a way that infracts freedom of expression and is harmful to the functionality of the internet as we know it.
The Blackout itself consists of thousands of sites partially or fully restricting visitor access to their content for 24 hours, which commenced at 00:00 this morning. And it’s not only happening on US sites; participant Wikipedia has taken its UK site offline for the duration, offering only a political statement and protest information to its visitors. Leading internet companies Twitter, Facebook and Google have also expressed their opposition to the Acts, though refrained from actively participating in the protest. (Actually…the US Google site has blacked out its logo, but is still allowing full user functionality!)
Although the battle to prevent these laws from passing is largely in America, it would be a mistake to think that ramifications are not global. Under SOPA and PIPA, the Justice Department and other content owners would be able to seek legal action demanding search engines to block any results connected with piracy. It is argued that both laws are so broadly written that they could see many ‘innocent’ and non-profit organisations falling under the spotlight. Sites such as Mozilla, TwitPic, WordPress, and thousands of others could be subjected to strict policing and may even face being shut down if they cannot effectively defend themselves against all possible violations. At least, that’s the fear.
With less than 10 hours left, it remains to be seen whether the protest will have any effect. But, if it doesn’t, we could be seeing some drastic changes to our internet surfing in the near future!
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