The Stop Online Piracy Act in the US is getting ever more publicity with GoDaddy one of the high profile companies to suffer from supporting it as we wrote a couple of days ago. In our previous article Martin summed up SOPA very effectively.
If you are living in the United States, you should have heard about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Protect-IP, which, when passed, would give companies rights that they should not have. If it passes, IP rightsholders (a term vaguely defined) could send notices to payment processors or ad services like Google Adsense to force them to stop doing business with listed websites, all without legal process.
Site owners have five days to file a counter-notice, but neither payment processors or ad networks have any obligation to respect it. Even worse, they are granted “immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement”.
Now a loose confederation of Internet giants are considering shutting down the entire websites for 24 hours and instead showing a messagew urging their visitors and customers to contact their representative in the US congress the day before the vote goes to the house there.
The coalition is made up of some very big names on the Internet including Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, eBay, PayPal, AOL, Foursquare, IAC, LinkedIn, Mozilla, OpenDNS and Zynga. If the plan goes ahead all these services could be taken offline for 24 hours.
In a report by CNet...
When the home pages of Google.com, Amazon.com, Facebook.com, and their Internet allies simultaneously turn black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about a vote in the U.S. Congress the next day on SOPA, you'll know they're finally serious.
True, it would be the political equivalent of a nuclear option--possibly drawing retributions from the the influential politicos backing SOPA and Protect IP--but one that could nevertheless be launched in 2012.
"There have been some serious discussions about that," says Markham Erickson, who heads the NetCoalition trade association that counts Google, Amazon.com, eBay, and Yahoo as members. "It has never happened before."
This wouldn't be the first piece of anti-piracy legislation around the world to face stiff opposition. France have already passed an Internet copyright law but the Digital Economy Act in the UK stalled in the face of arguments from major Internet Service Providers British Telecom and TalkTalk.
Many reports say that SOPA is still set to pass the US congress and that very few Americans have heard about it. Shutting down services such as Facebook and Google, and replacing them with anti-SOPA messages for a day would certainly raise awareness, but a question mark remains over whether doing so only one day before the congress vote would be effective enough.
This is the first time ever that major websites have threatened to effectively go on strike to boycott something, and it is completely unprecedented. It is unclear at this time whether the services would be taken down worldwide or just in the US and also how serious the coalition are about the boycott, which would inevitably lose them all a day's trade.
Services are commonly targeted for IP addresses anyway and it wouldn't be difficult for these companies to target messages to their US-based users. With many millions of visitors every day in the US, companies such as Google and Facebook could achieve this on their own. Imagine then how much more leverage they would have with Amazon, Yahoo! and others on board. If this goes ahead it is still possible that other companies could follow suit, effectively crippling the Internet in the US for the day before the vote.
So what do you think of SOPA and your favourite websites being taken offline for a day?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.