Internet Black Out Gathers Steam Against US Anti-Piracy Legislation
Posted by GRAND NCE, January 18, 2012

Some believe that the end of the world will occur this year in December. Perhaps, the Mayan calendar was referring to today's online blackout day?
On January 18, some of the Internet’s leading websites such as Wikipedia (English version only), Reddit, WordPress, and BoingBoing are shutting down for 24 hours to protest proposed anti-piracy legislation currently in front of the US Congress.
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) are the two controversial bills in question. One (SOPA) is before the U.S. House of Representatives; the other is before the Senate.
The protest is gathering steam as all sides contribute to the debate. 
The White House announced its opposition to SOPA and PIPA in a joint statement issued by Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at the Office of Management and Budget, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff. 
“While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” Read the entire statement here
Meanwhile, in a written statement before the committee on the Judiciary US House of Representatives, Paul Almedia, of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, is arguing in favor of SOPA. He stated that free speech was not a relevant consideration because "Freedom of speech is not the same as lawlessness on the Internet. There is no inconsistency between protecting an open Internet and safeguarding intellectual property. Protecting intellectual property is not the same as censorship; the First Amendment does not protect stealing goods off trucks."

Back on Canadian soil, IP expert Dr. Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, in a recent blogpost, explains “Why Canadians should participate in the SOPA/PIPA protest”. He will be one of the hundreds going dark on January 18.
Regardless of the outcome, the heated debate speaks to the tremendous impact digital media has on our daily lives. How digital media is created, shared and consumed represents an ongoing struggle to strike a new balance among a number of competing interests in a rapidly changing field. Whatever the outcome, it will be one that will affect all of us. It will be worth watching how all of this unfolds in the upcoming months. 


A selection of screencaptures from the home pages of Wikipedia, Reddit, WordPress and Boing Boing.