A few different websites have "gone dark" today in in order to highlight the pending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, in the House) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA, in the Senate). Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, Wired, and others all have their own statements or mini-protests with information on more and ways to contact your representatives on the issue.
In short, the bill expands a massive government overreach, allowing the Department of Justice to create a "blacklist" of websites that could be shut down without a hearing or trial.
The bills would empower the attorney general to create a blacklist of sites to be blocked by Internet service providers, search engines, payment providers and advertising networks, all without a court hearing or a trial. The House version goes further, allowing private companies to sue service providers for even briefly and unknowingly hosting content that infringes on copyright — a sharp change from current law, which protects the service providers from civil liability if they remove the problematic content immediately upon notification. The intention is not the same as China’s Great Firewall, a nationwide system of Web censorship, but the practical effect could be similar.
The House bill would also emulate China’s system of corporate “self-discipline,” making companies liable for users’ actions. The burden would be on the Web site operator to prove that the site was not being used for copyright infringement. The effect on user-generated sites like YouTube would be chilling.
The bills, whose vague language has websites everywhere worried, is being pushed by Hollywood movie studios, ex-Democrat Senator Chris Dodd, Patrick Leahy, and an unfortunately large number of Republican co-sponsors. There's a wide swath of opposition, however, and the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have all issued statements in opposition.
Moreover, one of our favorite Congressmen, Darrell Issa, is a pretty vocal leader in opposition. Despite this, Harry Reid still intends on bringing the controversial legislation to the floor. Issa recorded a video for keepthewebopen.com in order to raise awareness:
UPDATE: Marco Rubio posted a message on Facebook this morning saying that he has pulled his support from SOPA.
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