You may notice that the internet is slightly quieter than you are used to tomorrow.  This is due to numerous internet giants protesting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). Opponents to the bills state that if passed into law, they will stifle innovation and undermine free speech through unreasonable internet censorship.

On 18/01/12: Wikipedia, user-submitted news site Reddit, the blog Boing Boing and the Cheezburger network of comedy sites all plan to participate in the blackout.  They will follow in the web steps of the Italian Wikipedia site following similar anti piracy legislation proposed in Italy last year.

According to Wikipedia, SOPA “would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.  Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators, such as PayPal, from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.  The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months.”

I urge you to read this today as Wikipedia will be ‘dark’ tomorrow.  You can find more about the Wikipedia: SOPA initiative here.

Both bills appear ill thought through and have been condemned by the internet at large.  You can see a pretty reasoned argument against both bills in this video by Cynical Brit, a UK gaming journalist and learn more about the bills themselves in this handy infographic from AmericanCensorship.org.

As a social media consultancy that generates revenue and jobs directly through a healthy and free web, both of these bills need to go back to the drawing board.  It is obvious that companies that produce games, music, film and other IP need to be protected from piracy, but knee jerk legislation is not the answer. There needs to be future consultation with the internet big guns, Facebook et al.

SOPA was ‘shelved’ yesterday awaiting consensus on the bill. PIPA advocate and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a vote on the bill on 24/01/12.  Swot up on this subject, because if you operate online this does effect you.

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