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Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA, PIPA and the Internet Blackout Day

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All of yesterday, you’d probably have seen the image below when trying to bring up the English Wikipedia page.

Wikipedia joins the SOPA protest

Yesterday, Wednesday January 18, 2012 was the Internet Blackout Day, a day when many sites stopped publishing their usual content, and instead posted messaging reflecting their respective stands against the two pieces of legislation.

You may be wondering, why the outcry (via ComputerWorld) from these web-based service providers? To understand why, you’ll first need to understand what SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are all about.

Normally, Walski would link you to Wikipedia to help explain the story behind these two problematic acronyms, but…

Simply put, both acts could potentially mean giving media corporations a card blanche type of tool to censor the Internet as we know it.
(SOPA, PIPA, and why the Net is up in arms, in the full post)

Now note the words Walski used carefully: media, corporations, and potentially.

The main drivers behind both the SOPA and PIPA legislations are not your ordinary Joe IP-owner, but the big media corporations, in particular the film studios and record labels (via Gizmodo).

An example of how the legislation works (taken from Gizmodo):

If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site's ISP prevent people from even going there.
(source: Gizmodo)

Wikipedia is not the only party up in arms. The following was published on popular cartoon-satire site, The Oatmeal.

Yes, Walski agrees – kitten BBQ is Bad.

Someone even wrote a song about how SOPA/PIPA would kill sites like, home of the LOLCats.

ROTFLMAO… but in all seriousness, SOPA/PIPA is no laughing matter, out loud or otherwise.

So what is SOPA/PIPA and why aren’t tech professionals the least bit thrilled about it? This TED video explains it all.

Will the effects of SOPA and PIPA be limited to the US Internet alone? The answer, if you believe the numerous industry professional who have articulated their fears, is a resounding NO. It will effect the Internet as we know it.

In particular, it will have a big time effect on the real internet content producers – you.

As of the time this posting goes up, Wikipedia has restored its normal services, and has updated its SOPA blackout page, which now contains this message:

The Wikipedia blackout is over – and you have spoken.

More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge. You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. From all around the world your messages dominated social media and the news. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.

For us, this is not about money. It’s about knowledge. As a community of authors, editors, photographers, and programmers, we invite everyone to share and build upon our work.

Our mission is to empower and engage people to document the sum of all human knowledge, and to make it available to all humanity, in perpetuity. We care passionately about the rights of authors, because we are authors.

SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows. What’s happened in the last 24 hours, though, is extraordinary. The internet has enabled creativity, knowledge, and innovation to shine, and as Wikipedia went dark, you've directed your energy to protecting it.

We’re turning the lights back on. Help us keep them shining brightly.

(source: Wikipedia)

What can you do? Exactly what Clay Shirky suggested in the TED video - call your representative or senator, if you're a US Citizen, and if you're not, tell your US Citizen friends to call their representative or senator.

From what he’s gathered by reading up on SOPA/PIPA, Walski is quite convinced that these two pieces of legislation will effect E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E. Combined, both pieces of legislation have the potential to signal the beginning of the end for the Internet as we know it.

Michael Stipe may have sang, once upon a time, that even though it’s the end of the world as we know it,  he felt fine, Walski’s pretty sure the end of the Internet as we know it won’t sit well with most people.

And because the Internet has become a big part of our daily lives, it’s death may very well mean the end of the world as we know it. Not the Roland Emmerich-styled cataclysmic kind of end, per se, but the kind that would be equally catastrophic to you and Walski.

About that prospect, Walski doesn’t feel fine. Not one bit.