Some drunken arguments may need to be put on hold for a while as parts of the Internet are set to shut down on Wednesday and ‘reliable’ facts may not be available to settle the beer-fuelled debates.
The protest begins on the 18th of January in an effort to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Wikipedia and hundreds of other sites are ‘going dark’ in protest over SOPA and PIPA, which are now making their way into the American Congress. Without Wikipedia to give us credible sounding facts that debunk our friend’s point of view, we may see a rise in, “bullshit, that was totally made up” or “it must be real, I read it on Cracked!”
The English-language version of Wikipedia will be blanked out for 24 hours starting midnight Washington D.C. time until midnight, with a message of protest taking up the entire day of Wednesday.
SOPA and PIPA are two bills in Congress designed to stop the illegal copying and sharing of movies and music on the Internet. Major Internet companies say however, the bills would put them in the impossible position of policing their user generated content. The intended use of the bill is to protect movie studios and record labels from piracy and copyright threats. Supporters include the Country Music Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Some of the biggest online names including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, have openly opposed the proposed legislation. Search engines such as Google and Bing could be stopped from linking to websites that are involved in digital file sharing.
“If you want an Internet where human rights, free speech and the rule of law are not subordinated to the entertainment industry’s profits, I hope you’ll join us,” said Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing.
Websites taking part in the SOPA Strike include but are not limited to: Mozilla, Reddit, WordPress, Cheezburger and TwitPic.
Already up on en.wikipedia.org is a banner that counts down to the main event.
But what is SOPA?
The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.
The U.S. Attorney General can (with court approval) force any businesses linked to the infringing website to take action.
- ISPs must take measures designed to “prevent access” to the site, including making no one able to use the Domain Name to get access;
- Search engines would have to take prevent the site from from showing up as links in search results;
- Payment networks would need to cut any transactions between the site and US customers;
- Ad networks must take measures designed to stop serving ads on the site, stop serving ads for the site (including sponsored links), and cease all compensation to or from the site.
The Attorney General would also be able to bring actions down upon any businesses such as search engines to make sure they comply with the bill.
The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for 10 such infringements within six months. So if you have ever been on the Internet before, you may realise that almost every website that allows embedded videos, pictures or a comment section is guilty of some sort of piracy. Websites would have to be accountable for anything in the comments section that links to illegal downloads or hypothetically, someone using Batman as their avatar.
Understandably, the music and film and even gaming industry wants to keep its content away from people that haven’t paid them for it. The problem is SOPA doesn’t really make clear what level of piracy constitutes a threat to the owner of the copyright. This could mean America would be legally able to block funding and traffic to any foreign sites that contain Movie or Video Game screenshots, videos and soundtracks. Think of the vast Internet and how much of it will be essentially unreachable for Americans if Google was forced to censor their search results of any website with an image taken from somewhere else.
This sounds like death to the majority of video game related entertainment going around. Think of those “Machinima” videos that have become popular using in game engines to develop stories and even short films. A “Let’s Play” video series could be seen as a threat by a trigger-happy government. Larger productions may be able to protect themselves in some way, but what about the small start-ups on the internet that have come from just a few people with funny commentary? Without the opportunity to start something fresh and creative we may never see the full extent of the laughs they could have brought us.
I’m not endorsing piracy, intellectual property is very important to keep safe so that artists (film makers, musicians and game developers alike) can make a living off their products. There must be a better way to combat piracy than censorship and heavy handed punishment. Can YouTube conceivably filter through and censor out every video that contains music, or images belonging to the film or music industry? According to YouTube’s statistics page, “48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.” What are the chances there could be 10 infringements in that much video within a six month period?
The politicians do seem to take notice that a few people may be against the idea of a censored Internet. Some of the bill’s sponsors have indicated they would like to remove language that would force Internet service providers to outright block the offending websites at the naming and routing level. The controversy is set to continue, with the White House saying it strongly opposed big parts of the bills.
“We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
If you would like to show your support to the protest against SOPA and PIPA, go to https://blacklists.eff.org/