Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Websites go dark in anti-piracy bill protest

On Wednesday Jan. 18th thousands of sites will go dark to protest SOPA & PIPA, two US bills racing through Congress that threaten prosperity, online security, and freedom of expression.

Recently shelved in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) stirred up controversy throughout the Internet. As of Jan. 13, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has made a promise to House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the house will not be voting on the controversial bill until a consensus is reached.

Proposed October 26, 2011, by representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), SOPA would have allowed the Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites outside of U.S. jurisdiction accused of breaking copyright law.

Once the orders had been delivered, the U.S. Attorney General would be able to demand U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) and advertisers to stop doing business with whatever sites become blacklisted. Search engines such as Bing or Google would also be forced to block links to sites that were found to be in violation of the act.

"It's an act that wants to start cracking down on what they call Internet piracy," said Barbara Evans, junior dance major. "However, I don't see it that way. I see it as a way for Hollywood and other bigwig executives to control what goes through the Internet and how we share things."
SOPA's biggest supporters included various large and traditional media organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America, Recording Industry Association of America, Viacom, ABC, CBS, Comcast/NBC Universal, Marvel and Warner entertainment.

There were many big companies that opposed the act, mainly Internet companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Wikipedia, Reddit, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and the Mozilla corporation, sites which allow users to share and spread content in manners outside of the traditional media model.

The public outcry was not ignored with Smith announcing Jan. 13 that he would be pulling the DNS-blocking provisions from the bill.

"After consultation with industry groups across the country, I feel we should remove Domain Name System blocking from the Stop Online Piracy Act so that the Committee can further examine the issues surrounding this provision," Smith said. "We will continue to look for ways to ensure that foreign websites cannot sell and distribute illegal content to U.S. consumers."

In the senate, six GOP senators, including Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) asking to postpone the vote on the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA, the senate version of SOPA) after hearing from their constituents over the winter recess.

"I'm hoping that it gets struck down, that more people become aware of it and write their senators and representatives to say they don't want this," Evans said. "It completely thwarts the ideas of creativity and the idea of education, especially education distribution through the Internet, which is what I think the Internet is supposed to be used for."

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