If you’ve been following the whole SOPA/PIPA debate, then you’re probably aware that today, January 18, 2012, Wikipedia went black to protest the introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act.
These two bills, one being introduced in the Senate and the other the House, are designed to allegedly protect copyright owners from the infringing conduct of offshore and overseas violators.
In short, if a copyright owner believes that a website is selling counterfeit or pirated content, they can apply to the Court for an order which would then bar all links to the allegedly infringing site, stop search engines from making the site available and force ISPs to block access to the site.
In addition, there would be criminal penalties for unauthorized streaming of content online.
The debate rages passionately on both sides of the equation.
The bills’ proponents, lobbyists for the film and music industry, say its necessary to prevent the rampant unchecked piracy overseas that are cutting into their profits and hurting copyright owners.
Opponents of the bill, citing issues of inadequate due process, censorship and interference with free speech, believe that piracy can be combatted without these draconian laws.
But we’ve been here before.
Remember the music industry’s all out assault on peer-2-peer networks like Napster?
And the spate of lawsuits that the RIAA rammed through the courts, dragging countless teenagers and their parents into court for alleged infringing conduct?
And what did we learn from that?
That these massive companies, the laws were designed to protect, actually ended up abusing the laws, violating due process and in too many instances, initiating action against people who had never, actually, infringed anything.
What makes anyone think that if this law passes, that the exact same thing won’t happen?
For the time being, it looks like SOPA and PIPA have stalled.
Many commentators note that even if it passes both the Senate and the House, President Obama won’t sign it into law.
But they also note that this doesn’t mean the debate is over. Not by a longshot.
The movie and music industry lobby is fierce and motivated.
After the 2012 elections, President Obama will be more likely to extend an olive branch to the entertainment industry, which has had his back since the 2008 elections.
If a Republican is elected (God forbid), then it’s a foregone conclusion that these bills will be resurrected, and find their way into the law books.
But for internet activists, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, and others, this bill would likely have passed without much fanfare.
But the ramifications are so far reaching, and impact so much of what we take for granted, that these organizations have made it their mission to fight SOPA and PIPA for all it’s worth.
I, for one, have signed an online petition, contacted my Senator and Representative, and am encouraging everyone who reads this post to ring the alarm and let people know what’s going on.
Don’t let big business become Big Brother and take away your rights.