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Protesting SOPA: The Reality of an Internet Blackout

Have you visited Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist, or one of the many other major websites today that are blacked-out? No need to restart your system – it’s an organized protest against a major bill going to the Senate that could drastically change the way that we all are allowed to use the Internet.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith that was created to stop theft or piracy of content. The Protect IP Act (PIPA), according to Fast Company, is “…a bill designed to have a slightly broader sweep than SOPA with the intention of protecting goods that are copied by counterfeiters–anything from drugs to handbags.”

How would the passing of either of these bills affect you?

“If these bills were adopted, it would mean that no one could post another link on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, a website – anywhere online – without first checking to make sure that nothing on that site contained copyright infringement,” said Social Media Strategist Caroline Melberg. “It would change everything about how the Internet, social media and SEO work.”

Imagine having to check every single thing on a website before you linked to one of its articles. What if something was added later, after you had linked to it? Since links live “forever,” would you have to hire someone to go and check all your links frequently to make sure nothing had gone wrong with the website since you linked to it?

“In practice, it’s censorship of the Internet and how we do business today,” said Melberg. “This protest by many major websites is an organized exclamation to ‘Stop Piracy, Not Liberty.’”

You might be one of the individuals in favor of SOPA and PIPA, thinking that we all need a law in place to protect original content and copyrights online. Are you aware that one already exists? It’s called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998, and it was put in place to help prevent piracy and copyright infringement online – the issues that PIPA and SOPA are challenging right now. The difference is that SOPA and PIPA go far beyond this with the potential power to “break the Internet,” according to CNN.

Remember the protests in Egypt that held riots in the streets? The Egyptian government shut down the Internet at that time, as if it was as simple as flipping a switch. Many Americans watched and casually thought, “That could never happen here.”

Welcome to reality.

What do you think about the blackout protests?

Published on: January 18, 2012