Posted by Brady Mills

Wikipedia Goes Dark in Light of Internet Anti-Piracy Legislation – SOPA & PIPA

January 18, 2012

As Wikipedia and several other websites go dark today in protest of Anti-Piracy Legislation, we are left to wonder what our lives would be like without free information and freedom of speech. Wikipedia’s main page today says, “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.” Should the SOPA and PIPA bills pass Congress, anyone may be able to censor free speech through a simple copyright complaint.

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are two bills currently residing in the US House of Representatives and the United States Senate. These bills aim to prevent foreign websites from copyright infringement, but as with many laws, they do so in a way that infringes on freedom of expression and ultimately harm the Internet.

SOPA and PIPA place ownership of user-contributed content on the website owner. Small websites will not have the resources to defend themselves and larger media companies will simply cut off funding sources for foreign competitors, even if there isn’t a copyright infringement. Foreign sites may be blacklisted at the discretion of our government, which means they also will not appear in search engines. Not only does this allow our government to control our access to information (which is scary enough), it also establishes a framework for future restrictions. Imagine if we no longer had access to the BBC website?

On January 17, SOPA’s sponsor stated that the bill would be discussed in February. Although not certain, there are signs that PIPA may be debated on the Senate floor next week. Both of these bills are indications of a larger issue. Individual civil liberties are of little concern, while overly-broad copyright laws promoted by power players are given higher priority.

What can you do? If you are in the US, Contact your representatives and tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, along with any other similar legislation. Go here to find your representatives. Emails and letters are okay, but a phone call will have the most impact. If you are not in the US, contact your local State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or similar branch of government and let them know that you oppose SOPA and PIPA, along with any similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA affect everyone. Calling your local government officials will also let them know that you stand against similar legislation in your own country.

GovTrack is a system that will allow you to follow these bills throughout the legislative process: SOPA can be tracked here, and PIPA here.

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