SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act working its way through the U.S. Congress, has inspired an online backlash punctuated by Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing and others to start a blackout protest beginning tonight at midnight. Mozilla and sites in the Cheezburger Network will also join in, and even Google will support the protest with a link on its home page saying why they are against SOPA and its sister bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act.
While companies like Twitter and Facebook have come out against the bills, they will not black themselves out for 24 hours like some of the others. By blacking themselves out, the participating Web sites hope to raise awareness of what they say is a dangerous bill that goes to far to try and curb online piracy. Opponents of the bill have already secured a preliminary victory, however, because the bill's author, Lamar Smith (R-TX), has announced he would work to remove some language from the bill that was most offensive. Specifically, the ability to block ISP addresses because those sites hosted copyritten material would be removed, Smith said in a press release last week.
Despite this partial victory, the bill is not dead yet, and so the blackout is on. At issue is many musicians and filmmakers feel the Internet has made it too easy to steal their protected works, and SOPA was designed to go after Web sites instead of those who do the stealing. Web sites are protected from being held liable now, and opponents of the bill have been saying the new law would lead to a chilling effect on Web sites not affected. That means even Web sites that were operating legally would end up self-censoring in order to not get caught up in any legal proceedings. Let us know in the comments if you support SOPA.
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