You have probably heard talk of the internet blackout that is going on today. Likely you are seeing images like the one above, as well as homepages, logos and comments in your social media feeds physically blacked out. This is in protest to two pieces of legislation that are currently before both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate is to consider a bill called PIPA (Protect IP Act), while the House of Representatives has been presented with the slightly better known SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). Both bills seek to create a series of laws which would give copyright holders more power to fight piracy, as it affects their content. From videos, to music, to written articles and images, copyright holders will be able to block access to web pages and entire websites.
Although this seems logical, based upon the fact that copyright laws are in place to give credit to those who own content, many are worried about the implications that passing the bill could bring about. Under the bill, copyright holders and other watchdog types would be able to report that a site hosts a single piece or more of copyrighted content. Whether the content (which could be interpreted as a logo in a photograph or a song used for background music in a YouTube video) is being sold, offered as a free download, or simply used as a piece of a project would be of no consequence. Copyright holders would have the legal ability to:
· Force search engines, like Google and Bing, to refrain from offering these sites up in search results
· Block access to infringing websites by telling your Internet Service Provider (be it AT&T or Insight here in Louisville) that they are not allowed to direct you to an infringing site
· Disallow payment processing companies (from PayPal to credit card processors) from allowing these sites to generate revenue from people inside the United States
What’s the Issue?
While most anyone would agree that piracy is theft and should be combated, many individuals and organizations are in staunch opposition to the bills. From Google to Facebook to the more local Louisville Digital Association, many people see the side effects of the bills to be disastrous. In essence, they feel that the bill circumvents due process and gives copyright holders and their associates the ability to have a website rendered inaccessible to those in the United States. They argue that there is little burden of proof in the current bills, aside from a clause making it illegal to inaccurately report websites. Many fear that a website could be shelved without so much as anyone actually verifying that copyrighted content is being illegally distributed. The burden then falls on the website itself to petition to be put back online.
SOPA and Louisville
These bills would affect those of us here in Louisville. Examples that have been cited include disallowing people to post certain items for resale on Craigslist, to having local blogs rendered inaccessible. Ultimately local businesses could run into trouble with their websites and online marketing efforts. The real issue is here is censorship, and who should have control over it. Everyone has their own opinion on this issue. Feel free to share yours in the comment section below.
Local reaction stems from indifference to active participation in the blackouts. The Louisville wing of Metroissues.com is hosting a soft blackout. Additionally, one resident tweeted contact information for John Yarmuth, Louisville’s Congressional Representative, amongst other social media chatter. If you would like to participate you have not necessarily lost out. Today is the official protest, but it is likely that there will be more demonstrations. If you really do feel passionately you could also sign petitions or contact your representatives.