[JPL] Wikipedia & others go dark tomorrow to protest SOPA & PIPA
drjazz at drjazz.com
Tue Jan 17 11:46:44 EST 2012
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- A handful of large websites will go dark on
Wednesday to protest an anti-piracy bill that critics say will wreck the
Internet as we know it.
Wikipedia, user-submitted news site Reddit, the blog Boing Boing and the
Cheezburger network of comedy sites all plan to participate in the
blackout. The protest is their response to the Stop Online Piracy Act
(SOPA) bill, a piece of proposed legislation that is working its way
Introduced in the House of Representatives in late October, the bill
aims to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to
sites that fuel it. Its targets include "rogue" overseas sites like
torrent hub The Pirate Bay, which essentially operates as a trading
ground for illegal downloads of movies and other digital content.
A similar bill called the Protect IP Act was approved by a Senate
committee in May and is now pending before the full Senate.
The controversial legislation has turned into an all-out war between
Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Media companies have united in favor of
it, while tech's power players are throwing their might into opposing it.
If SOPA passes, copyright holders would be able to complain to law
enforcement officials and get websites shut down. Search engines and
other providers would have to block rogue sites when ordered to do so by
a judge. Sites could be punished for hosting pirated content in the
first place -- and Internet companies are worried that they could be
held liable for users' actions.
As BoingBoing wrote: "Making one link would require checking millions
(even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren't in
some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four
multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their
White House jumps in: The House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform was supposed to hold a hearing with industry experts on
Wednesday, which is why sites targeted that day for a blackout.
But Rep. Darrell Issa, a Republican from California who opposes SOPA,
postponed the hearing on Friday after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
said the bill won't move in its current form.
Cantor's comments sparked some news reports claiming that SOPA is dead,
but an aide in Issa's office said "that's probably a little premature."
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian was slated to testify in Washington, but
he said he will now instead attend a protest rally in New York City
organized by the group NY Tech Meetup. They plan to assemble outside the
offices of New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
The White House released its first statement about the bill on Saturday.
The Obama administration wrote that it would not support legislation
that mandates "tamper[ing] with the technical architecture of the
Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS)."
As originally written, SOPA would have required Internet access
providers and other companies to block access to targeted sites in ways
that were rife with potential unintended consequences. The White House
said its analysis of the original legislation's technical provisions
"suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity."
The White House's statement came shortly after one of SOPA's lead
sponsors, Texas Republican Lamar Smith, agreed to remove SOPA's DNS
Issa's aide says that isn't enough: "Merely taking out the DNS-blocking
provisions doesn't not rectify a bill that's fundamentally flawed."
The controversial bill, once expected to sail quickly through committee
approval in the House, is now being extensively reworked before it comes
up for a commitee vote.
Rupert Murdoch, the CEO of News Corp. (NWS), voiced his frustration with
the White House's stance in a series of tweets over the weekend.
"Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten
all software creators with piracy, plain thievery," Murdoch wrote on
In addition to Murdoch, SOPA has drawn support from groups including the
Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry
Association of America, which say that online piracy leads to U.S. job
losses by depriving content creators of income. Time Warner, the parent
company of CNNMoney, is among the industry supporters of the legislation.
Proponents of the bill dismiss accusations of censorship, saying that
the legislation is meant to revamp a broken system that doesn't
adequately prevent criminal behavior.
But SOPA's critics say that say that the bill's backers don't understand
the Internet, and therefore don't appreciate the implications of the
legislation they're considering.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House members has proposed an
alternative bill, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade
This legislation would allow rights holders to ask the U.S.
International Trade Commission (ITC) to enforce current laws by
targeting the actual content pirates. OPEN's backers have posted the
draft legislation online and invited the Web community to comment on and
revise the proposal.
SOPA supporters counter that the ITC doesn't have the resources for such
enforcement, and that giving it those resources would be too expensive.
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First Published: January 16, 2012: 3:42 PM ET
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