By Vladimir Gladkov
Wikipedia and a number of other popular web-resources have started a temporary shutdown of their websites as part of a protest against the controversial legislation Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). While the attack launched by the Obama administration on the SOPA Act made Congress put off its voting on the matter, the opponents of the legislation believe that sponsors of stricter Internet controls are far from giving up.
“Boing Boing is offline today because the US Senate is considering legislation that would certainly kill us forever,” – says the message posted on the Boing Boing website, a popular blogging platform, which has also temporarily gone offline to voice its opposition to the questionable anti-piracy acts The proposed legislation is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and would put us in legal jeopardy if we linked to a site anywhere on the web, which offered any content which infringes copyright. This would unmake the Web, just like the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) made. We don’t want that kind of world.”
Both bills, which are widely supported by the American movie and music-recording industry, would allow the US Justice Department to close down websites containing pirated content or just links to sites which host pirated content. However, the worldwide tech community as well as many politicians and human rights advocates are strongly opposed to the proposed measures, claiming that not only such steps be inefficient in combating piracy, but they would also enable allow governments and corporations to censor the internet and stifle technological progress.
Since the opposing sides are both presented by such serious players as Hollywood studios, on the one side, and internet giants such as Twitter, YouTube, Google and Facebook on the other, it is impossible to predict the outcome of this standoff. However, the recent intervention by Obama’s administration has helped the opponents of the proposed legislation win the first round.
“… We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet,” – said the official White House statement, making the Congress delay a vote on SOPA.
Nevertheless, many opponents of the doubtful anti-piracy measures believe that they have won only one battle, not the war. “We don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem”, says the message on the Wikipedia website. The decision of the Wikipedia team to take its English-language site offline for 24 hours was followed by a number of other popular web resources, such as Reddit and BoingBoing, while others, including Twitter, refused to take part in this form of protest.
“Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish,” tweeted Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive. Later he stressed that his claim was not meant to be taken as a “value judgment” about the organizations involved in the protest.
The development of the situation has demonstrated that fears of the internet community are more than well-grounded. The American entertainment industry is too concerned about piracy to worry about the openness of the Internet or even the lack of effectiveness of the proposed measures – the fact repeatedly highlighted by the technology experts. Hollywood has already spent enormous sums of money amount of money lobbying SOPA and is unlikely to give up even after Obama’s intervention. Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation and the owner of the movie studio 20th Century Fox has strongly critised Obama’s move. “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery,” – twitted Murdoch in his comment on the White House statement.
SOPA backers do have two major arguments which could successfully used to persuade the public. First one is that the online piracy seriously hurts the American economy. “Seems like universal anger with Potus [President of the United States] from all sorts of normal supporters… – says Rupert Murdoch, -Whole entertainment industry employs 2.2 million [on] average salary $65,000. Good jobs and expanding foreign earnings. Made in America, too!”
The second argument is the claim that SOPA opponents somehow “defend” or “endorse” online piracy, which is completely untrue. All of the internet giants involved in the protests have made it clear that they oppose interne “thievery”, but consider SOPA to be an extremely ineffective weapon against it. Now, only time will show who will win this epic battle for Internet freedom.