When you get black bars on websites like Google, Wikipedia, Mashable, and Reddit all in one day, you know something is up. No, it’s not Anonymous, it’s a world-wide protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill in congress right now that could change the web as we know it. Andy Inhtanko, of the Chicago Sun-Times, puts it well in a long article detailing the problems of SOPA and its sister bill PIPA:
If the success of the Internet can be attributed to one basic principle it’s this: information should move freely from one place to another without restrictions. That’s not a hippie-dippy drum-circle philosophy, either. It’s simple engineering. It’s the reason why Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Twitter, The Comics Curmudgeon, and all of the other sites I love and rely on happened. Good ideas get to prove themselves in front of the worldwide Internet community immediately, and they’re adapt to changing needs.
SOPA and PIPA redefine the Internet as “the place where copyrighted materials are protected.” This new American Internet is estranged from the rest of the world and designed to serve the needs of one single commercial industry. Defending against piracy becomes the prime directive; things can happen here on the American Internet provided that it couldn’t somehow be seen as potentially in conflict with the interests of the MPAA and the RIAA.
To put it more simply: the current definition of the Internet is one of “Yes, do that.” The definition of the SOPA/PIPA-controlled Internet would be “No, don’t.” It’s a fine concept for a vending machine but a terrible one for a fundamental network that’s supposed to connect every human on the planet with every other human. And it’s galling that we can redefine the definition of complete and utter freedom just to offer a legislative boondoggle to a private industry that’s already quite profitable.
Have you ever looked at piece of copyrighted content online? Chances are you have, or even worse, downloaded it – but that’s not what this is about. If you find a copyrighted piece of information: a book, song, video, picture, etc. and simply link to that page on someone else’s site: that action is what’s covered by SOPA. You made the infringing move by linking, but the site’s owner “allowed” that to happen by simpling having comments, a status box, or some way of transmitting information. You see the comment bar below this post? Unless I screen every single comment, trackback, tweet, and so forth, I can’t guarantee that there are no copyrighted materials or their links being associated with this site. That puts TNTSU at risk merely by assocation. Does that sound fair? No, it doesn’t. This whole scenario is explained in detail on Mashable.
Again, from Mashable, to sum up:
This bill turns us all into criminals. If it passes, then you either stop using the Internet, or you simply hope that you never end up in the crosshairs, because if you’re targeted, you will be destroyed by this bill. You don’t have to be a big, mean, nasty criminal — common Internet usage is effectively criminalized under this law. This bill will kill American innovation and development of the Internet, as it will become too risky to do anything of value. It is toxic and dangerous, and should not, under any circumstances, be supported.