The day the Internet went dark: SOPA protests begin

Today’s the day that the giants of the Internet make their stand against the proposed US SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy bills, with big names such as Wikipedia and Reddit flicking the switch on their sites.

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What do you mean you’ve not heard of SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act) or PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act)?  Well basically the aim of the bills is to provide more powers to combat the pirating of copyrighted material, protecting the intellectual property of record companies and film studios etc. 

Nothing wrong with that you may think, and you’d be right- however the proposed bills are a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  Rather than taking action against the individuals breaking the law, the bills would, if passed allow the websites used to facilitate the theft to be shut down or blocked- with far reaching implications for a free internet. 

If both bills are passed, intellectual property owners would have the power to get websites blocked for ANY act they deem to be an infringement of their IP- no matter how small.  These bills are tantamount to censorship, and could affect what you are allowed to post on user created content sites such as YouTube and Facebook- who would have to exercise control over what you can post to avoid being shutdown themselves.

These bills although affecting only the US directly will have international impact as the US will also block foreign “infringing” sites, and where the US lead, other nations may well follow.  A post-SOPA world would stifle future internet start-ups too- imagine how a site like Facebook would get established in the future if they could be sued or shutdown when a user posts anything that could be viewed as copyrighted material.  It would simply never get off the ground!

The proposed legislation is extremely badly thought out and short sighted to say the least, but has the backing of many big media companies as well as misinformed congressmen in the US.

Among the anti-SOPA sites protesting are Google, Reddit, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter;  Visiting any of their sites will lead you to a message about the bills.

Whilst there’s not much we can do about all this over here in the UK, it’s best to be informed about it- read this breakdown of the SOPA/PIPA bills on Reddit, and check out the video below:

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