Understand the Internet Strike: SOPA, PIPA and a Free Internet
Today, January 18, 2012, a number of web sites are going dark to protest two bills currently before Congress that, if passed, could have a chilling effect on freedom of the intenet. The bill in the House is H.R. 3261: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), while the Senate bill, S.968: PROTECT-IP Act of 2011, is commonly known as PIPA. Both bills address the crime of Internet piracy by proposing to allow the Department of Justice more authority to order internet service providers to block access to domain names that infringe copyright; to order search engines, blogs, and other sites to remove links to infringing content; and to allow individuals and companies to sue when they believe their copyright is infringed.
The New York Times reports that supporters of the legislation include lobbying group The Motion Picture Association of America, Rupert Murdoch, and music companies, while opponents include the founders of Google, Twitter, and YouTube.
Stating, "While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," the Obama administration came out strongly against the legislation this past weekend.
Also this weekend, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised he would not bring SOPA to the floor; however, the bill's author, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), announced today he expects the committee to continue work on SOPA in February. The Senate is still on track to vote on PIPA as soon as January 24.
UPDATE 1:15 PST: The New York Times reports that a number of the bill's cosponsors have withdrawn support today for PIPA as written, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who took to Twitter to call the legislation "simply not ready for prime time." On Facebook, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) posted that he has withdrawn his support.
Many web sites have announced their intention to go dark, or restrict the display of content, on January 18 to protest these two bills. Most site owners who have specified a timeline say they'll be down from 8AM to 8PM EST, though some went dark at midnight EST. BlogHer is following this as a news story, since so many of our members depend on the internet for its livelihood and more. We will be posting updates as news breaks throughout the day, as we have been doing since the story starting building.
Some of the Sites Going Dark Jan. 18
- The English version of Wikipedia will be blacked out worldwide for 24 hours starting at 05:00 UTC.
- The WordPress.org blackout should not affect your WordPress blog -- but you can install plugins to join the strike.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation
- The Cheezburger Network
- The Oatmeal (with a hysterical explanation)
- Cake Wrecks
- Creative Commons
- Smart Bitches Trashy Books
In addition, Google has blacked out its logo and is pointing to SOPA resources on its home page all day today. The homepage of the Huffington Post also features a prominently blacked-out area. See a more complete list of site owners who have pledged to go dark at SOPAstrike.com, AmericanCensorship.org, and Mashable.
Coverage and Analysis
- Read danah boyd's take on SOPA: Piracy is a problem; this legislation is a bigger one.
- This Blog Has Been [Redacted] on Gigabiting
- SOPA Blackout Aims to Block Internet Censorship Bill on the Huffington Post
- Everything You Need to Know About Congress's Online Piracy Bills, in One Post on the Washington Post
- Mom in a Million: On Copyright, SOPA and Pipa
- Tumblr's Stand Against Censorship
- The Author of SOPA Is a Copyright Violator on Vice.com
- Reports of Wikipedia-dependent kids desperately tweeting for an extension on their homework.
- Twitter users have been posting made-up #factswithoutwikipedia to demonstrate the site's importance.
If You Want to Take Action:
- SopaStrike and Stop American Censorship have lists of actions to take to get involved, including ways to black out your blog.
- WordPress bloggers can install blackout plugins.
- BlackoutSopa allows you to change your Twitter icon in support.
- ProPublica.org has a page called SOPA Opera, which lists which members of Congress support SOPA and PIPA (you may be surprised) -- and contact information.
- Read the text of SOPA on Open Congress
- Read the text of PIPA on Open Congress
If you're participating in the SOPA strike today—or if you've got an opinion on it—let us know in the comments! We'll be updating this story throughout the day, and we stand in support of both copyright protection and the right for a free internet.