UPDATED: On January 18th, Wikipedia, Reddit, Imgur and numerous other Web sites will be going dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Others, like Google, will be protesting in other ways. Here's who's shutting down and why.
Expect to see this page, from ProtestSOPA.org, and others like it a lot tomorrow as major Web sites protest against SOPA & PIPA.
There is nothing wrong with your Internet. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. The reason you won't be able to use Wikipedia, Reddit, or numerous other Web sites on January 18th is that these Web sites have decided to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).
Here's my current list of the most important sites that will be going dark or limiting their operations in protest of SOPA/PIPA.
Boing Boing the popular science-fiction and geek news site will be going dark on January 18th. As Cory Doctrow, science-fiction writer and editor of the site, explains, "Boing Boing could never co-exist with a SOPA world: we could not ever link to another website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we'd have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren't in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits."
MoveOn, the liberal political activism site, will be going dark according to Justin Ruben, its Executive Director because "Congress is playing fast and loose with Internet censorship legislation that would have people like Justin Bieber thrown in jail for uploading a video to YouTube. The Internet censorship legislation could severely restrict free speech, and put a stranglehold on one of the most innovative, job-creating industries of our time."
Mozilla, makers of the popular Firefox Web browser, has also done dark. In a statement, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker, explained the decision saying, "SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure. SOPA does not target websites serving up unauthorized content. SOPA does not target people accessing those websites. SOPA targets all the rest of us. These costs are significant, wide-ranging and long lasting." She then uses the analogy of corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie industry believes that some or even all of the videos in that store are unauthorized copies, so that they’re not being paid when people watch their movies. ... SOPA/PIPA don’t aim at the people trying to get to the store. SOPA/ PIPA don’t penalize or regulate the store itself. SOPA and PIPA penalize us if we don’t block the people trying to get to the store." If that sounds both unfair and technically next to impossible, your're right, and that's Baker's point.
Why are these sites doing this? Because SOPA and PIPA are bad laws. If enacted, a copyright holder could, legally have foreign Web sites shut down by simply accusing them of violating their copyright. These sites would then, from an American perspective, simply vanish. How broad is this? According to Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and author id American Constitutional Law, SOPA is unconstitutional because, "an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement."
Tribe also states that it SOPA violates the First Amendment because "it delegates to a private party the power to suppress speech without prior notice and a judicial hearing. This provision of the bill would give complaining parties the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice accusing the site of being 'dedicated to theft of U.S. property'- -even if no court has actually found any infringement."
Therefore, Tribe concludes, "Although the problems of online copyright and trademark infringement are genuine, SOPA is an extreme measure that is not narrowly tailored to governmental interests. It is a blunderbuss rather than a properly limited response, and its stiff penalties would significantly endanger legitimate websites and services. Its constitutional defects are not marginal ones that could readily be trimmed in the process of applying and enforcing it in particular cases. Rather, its very existence would dramatically chill protected speech by undermining the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. It should not be enacted by Congress."
Besides simply shutting down Web sites on demand, SOPA would, as Reddit put it in its Blackout Special Edition (PDF Link) "Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him."