Major Websites Blackout in Opposition to SOPA
Currently being discussed in Congress, SOPA and PIPA are two pieces of legislation which were designed to crack down on piracy and copyright infringement. Unfortunately, these bills create the very real possibility of Internet censorship, as we’ve talked about before.
Understandably, the Internet is outraged. Countless petitions and protests have occurred in an effort to prevent the legislation from passing. As a part of this movement, yesterday was a memorable day for people nationwide. Why? Because the English version of Wikipedia was replaced with this:
As a sign of protest against SOPA/PIPA, Wikipedia joined several other major websites, including Google, Reddit, and Tumblr, in a mass blackout to demonstrate the possible effects of these pending bills.
In addition to Wikipedia, Google’s homepage featured a gray censor bar over their familiar logo.
Similarly, Reddit and Tumblr replaced their homepages with messages about the legislation and its effects on the Internet. Several protesting websites included information on contacting local representatives in an effort to increase public action. But were the actions of these websites justified?
I would say so. If you have some time to spare, Clay Shirky describes the effects of SOPA/PIPA extremely well in this TED Talk:
One of the most telling parts of Shirky’s talk comes towards the end, when he states:
[Media companies] don’t want legal distinctions between legal and illegal sharing. They just want the sharing to go away. PIPA and SOPA are not oddities…they’re the next turn of this particular screw which has been going on for 20 years now. If we defeat these – as I hope we do – more is coming…until we convince Congress that the way to deal with copyright violation is the way copyright violation was dealt with by Napster, by Youtube, which is to have a trial…that goes on in democratic societies.
Chilling, but true. As most things do, the issue at hand boils down to finances. It costs money to police copyright infringement, which is one of the reasons why SOPA/PIPA appeals to supporters; it costs significantly less money to simply block a domain instead of holding a trial with evidence for every instance of infringement.
However, just because something is cheaper does not mean it is the best course of action. While copyright infringement is a real issue that deserves proper attention, the latest form of protest against SOPA/PIPA reveals that these bills miss the mark entirely. The Internet exists as an entity which allows for the freedom of expression, creation, and collaboration – not censorship.
What are your thoughts about SOPA/PIPA? Were you impacted by the website blackouts? Let us know in the comments.