Wikipedia is blacked out today (along with Reddit, the Google doodle, and Boing Boing, and others) to protest the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its stepchild, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The Wikipedia pages for those bills are still open for business, by the way.
Belay Streaming That Movie, Mates!
SOPA is intended to halt the sharing of copyright-protected materials over the internet (piracy), by allowing the US Dept of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders against rogue websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. According to Wikipedia,
“the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.”
The bill would also make unauthorized streaming of copyright protected content a crime.
Opponents of the bill say it amounts to censorship and first amendment rights infringement, and will cripple the internet by penalizing or shuttering sites like YouTube, Flickr, or Etsy that host user generated content. Some also argue that objectionable content – for example something posted in comments on your blog – could cause entire domains to be shut down. Proponents of the acts deny this, saying the bills are intended to target sites like the Pirate Bay that actively encourage or enable piracy or illegal sharing.
Opponents also argue that the acts criminalized are so vaguely defined that innocent users could be swept up in the potential internet dragnet.
Where there’s a will…
Regardless of your stance on these bills, if you need to get to wikipedia today, the New York Times’ Bits Blog can help you out.