SOPA/PIPA: WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?

Matt Kluemper's picture
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We have been following the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, in the House of Representatives) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA, in the Senate) very closely ever since their inception into Congress months ago. 

In recent days, things really heated up and will continue to simmer this week. Several lnternet giants threatented to take their sites down in protest to the bills.  Although it appears that the House of Representatives will end up blocking the SOPA bill, the PIPA bill is still being considered in the Senate.   

About SOPA/PIPA: Both bills were created to leverage punishment for those that pirate illegal music, movies, and literature.  As a result of these bills, the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, would be allowed to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement, which could end up blocking advertising networks, payment facilitators such as PayPal, and search engines from linking to the site in the wrong. AmericanCensorship.org, an opponent of the bills, put together a video, infographic and article that explains how this affects many websites.  

Let’s get caught up on the major updates that happened over the weekend, starting on Friday, January 13:  

DNS blocking was struck from the SOPA bill.  
This was a highly contested - and perhaps the most controversial - section of the bill.  This section essentially gave copyright holders and the Department of Justice the right to completely block a site via DNS.  Many people were very concerned about the increased technical vulnerabilities this would cause, as well as the invasion of privacy and expression.  

Some websites are going on strike on Wednesday, January 18 to protest both bills 
Wikipedia,  Reddit, Moveon, Mozilla, Tucows, and cat meme site IcanHasCheezburger are among some top sites that have said they will go on strike on Wednesday, January 18.  

According to the Huffington Post, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, announced on Twitter that Wikipedia will go dark on Wednesday from midnight EST on January 18 until midnight EST on January 19 in protest of the proposed bill. 

The opponents going on strike also want other NetCoalition members to join in - specifically, Google, Facebook, and Twitter.  There is not yet indication that Google will (last week, it sounded pretty unlikely that they would), but we should definitely all continue to watch this.  There are some reports that Googlers have been talking on Google+ about what Google will do for the blackout, but there has been no official word from Google yet (Facebook and Twitter have not commented either).

What should you expect from Google come January 18?  I’d expect a logo change (Google Doodle), censored logo, or a link of some sort on their homepage.  If they went black on January 18, however, that will have major impact on the education industry, especially for prospective students looking to start their new career. Google owns around 65% of search market share, and therefore a vast majority of traffic to education sites.    

Lastly, according to the Huffington Post, the White House announced Saturday that they will not support the SOPA or PIPA bills.
This is a major win for opponents of the bill, as the White House and the Obama Administration have said they are opposed to both bills in the current form.  They have also said that they will work with both opponents and proponents of the bills to pass legislation for copyright violations in 2012. Expect more information to come out about both of these bills in the next two weeks, and - although unlikely - if Google decides to go dark on January 18, expect your business to be affected.      

By Matt Kluemper

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