If you’ve been anywhere online in the past few weeks you’re probably now familiar with SOPA and PIPA (not the Middleton family’s beloved Pipa, of course).
In a few brief words, the U.S government wanted to use the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA) to block Americans from visiting websites. Following the steps of, ironically, Iran and China, DNS blocking would be used to deny users access to sites that host copyright infringing material, and instant actions would be taken to cut-off payment providers, ad revenue and search engine listings without prior notice or a warning! Copyright holders and the Justice Department would be able to get court orders against sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement.
Doesn’t sound too bad until you really think of what this means… Countless websites would be taken down immediately and even social networking giants such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and many others could be compromised. How? It’s as easy as you uploading a video of your little sister dancing to Rihanna’s latest hit song playing in the background. Since you don’t own the rights to the song being played and you are publishing content with it, the website hosting your video would now be prone to getting banned, or, if all the above were to be applied, it would be completely wiped off the face of the Internet.
Now this is a very extreme scenario, but it gives you an idea of what the adoption of such legislations could entail, and from the looks of it, it’s downright ugly! So ugly that mega websites such as Google (or god as referred to by some), Facebook & Wikipedia staged protests ranging from total website blackouts to dedicated protest pages and announcements. Mark Zuckerberg posted an update renouncing SOPA/PIPA and linking to an official Facebook page outlining the company’s opposition to the bills. Wikipedia totally blacked out their website and Google’s familiar doodle was replaced with a black box and a message that read “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!”. The message linked to a page detailing Google’s opposition and an option to join an online petition urging Congress to reject the legislation.
All this pressure and opposition seems to have payed off. Media juggernauts like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) who are lobbying for the bills have just faced their first “NO” from Washington. A “no” they are definitely not used to hearing. Many congressmen who initially supported SOPA/PIPA are now backing off, and the white house declared that it will not be endorsing these legislations, at least not until a consensus is reached. Last Friday, the head of the House Judiciary Committee, responsible for the passage of SOPA through the House of Representatives, said he is tabling SOPA in its current form, effectively killing the bill. Messing with the basic right to “Freedom of speech” sounds like a very bad idea now for whoever planned this out, and it seems that this is one PIPA who won’t be getting the royal treatment anytime soon.
My screens last Friday were reminiscent of a war scene, buzzing with retaliatory operations’ news and threats of greater and more fearful things to come. File sharing website MegaUpload was taken down by the FBI. Within minutes, AnonOps (the internet activism group Anonymous) sprung into action and took down numerous websites including those of the Department of Justice, the U.S Copyright Office, Universal Music, The MPAA, RIAA and threatened that the FBI’s web presence is next in line to be attacked. A gloomy vision of what could have been if those bills passed as is.
Social media platforms and networks have reinvented the way we communicate, do business and live our daily lives. The overwhelming wave of online protests and activism against the SOPA/PIPA bills may just be reinventing the way democratic politics are carried out… With digital warfare raging full on between the “99%” and the “1%”, maybe 2012 will indeed be the end of world as we know it!
Fady Roumieh is a blogger and an LBCblogs contributor. You can find him on Twitter here or follow his blog.