By Matt Hellman
Many websites joined Wikipedia Wednesday in their efforts to protest against two anti-piracy bills: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Wikipedia blacked out its site for the entire day, and other sites took actions of their own.
“When you see the Google logo blocked out, it definitely catches your attention,” Marlene Neill, a lecturer Public Relations and New Media at Baylor, said. “We use these sites everyday. Wikipedia, blogs like mashable.com — they are online resources we use a lot. For some of our new media courses, these sites are necessary tools for doing a job and are also necessary for keeping up with industry trends.”
“If Wikipedia got shut down, people wouldn’t be able to write a lot of their research papers,” Baytown junior Samuel Allmon said. “Wikipedia is a tremendous resource for students; we usually use Wikipedia as a jumping off point to write about research topics. Facebook, Reddit, Wikipedia and Google would have to change a lot to be able to survive underneath SOPA.”
According to CBS News, a supporter of the legislation, the intention behind these two bills is to protect against online piracy by targeting sites hosting pirated materials and shutting them down by requiring Internet service providers and ad networks to cut off all ties with the targeted site.
In a statement released Tuesday, the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, shared his disapproval of the then-upcoming blackout.
“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging,” Dodd said.
Any site that links to another site containing pirated files would be blocked by SOPA, rendering it virtually unusable.
“In theory, it’s a good measure of ‘Hey, piracy is bad. We should stop it.’ But it’s written by people that have no idea how the Internet works,” Allmon said.
He believes SOPA would limit many websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit in their information output, and would not actually work as intended.
The legislation would provide the possibility of protection for those in large copyright industries, including artists and movie production companies, but could also disable smaller new sites from being created because of the money that would be needed to protect the site from external piracy threats.
“Piracy is rampant right now on downloading music and movies because the alternatives aren’t worth the price we have to pay at the store,” Allmon said. “Forcing people to lose the Internet because others are pirating movies is not the method to go about it.”
Since the blackout protest’s midnight kick-off on Tuesday, many government officials including Texas Sen. John Cornyn and PIPA co-sponsor Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have withdrawn their support from the cause in search of other options, according to posts on their individual Facebook pages.
“It is encouraging to see the legislators slowing down and taking a look at it to see the unintended consequences,” Neill said.
The PIPA bill will be coming to a vote in the Senate on Jan. 24, while the SOPA bill will be undergoing further work through February, according to CBS News.