This Wednesday, you may have noticed the internet got a little weird: Google’s logo on its homepage was censored, Wikipedia went black, even LOLcats were asking you to contact your members of Congress. The cause of all the uproar? The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), two bills currently in front of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, respectively.
Both SOPA and PIPA were created to allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders greater capacity to combat online sharing of copyrighted intellectual property and goods – i.e., to make it harder to pirate music, movies, and other media online. Proponents of the bills, the most vocal being the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, estimate that internet piracy results in some $100 million in lost profits annually for U.S. companies and the loss of thousands of jobs.
What concerns opponents of the bill, however, is that these new bills would threaten internet users’ free speech, access to information, and privacy by giving law enforcement broad powers to block websites and forcing internet service providers (ISPs) to police and monitor their users – raising a firewall around America like the one used in China. Concerns have also been raised that the bills would undermine internet security as well as stifle innovation and economic growth.
Not sure what to think? Try perusing some of these resources to bring yourself up to speed:
Some resources in favor of SOPA and PIPA:
- Read Lamar Smith’s (R-Texas, Head of the House Judiciary Committee and sponsor of SOPA) defense of SOPA in the National Review.
- Read the Recording Industry Association of America’s estimates of the costs of internet piracy in the music industry and an opinion piece written by the RIAA CEO in the New York Times.
- Read the Motion Picture Association of America’s arguments in favor of SOPA and PIPA.
Some resources against SOPA and PIPA:
- Read the blog post announcing Wikipedia’s decision to blackout on January 18th and their reasons why.
- Read the American Library Association’s statement in support of the blackout, as well as their PIPA, SOPA, and OPEN Act Quick Reference Guide.
- Read Google’s page about why Google opposes SOPA & PIPA.
Where do you stand on these bills? Want to contact your Senators and Representative? Use this page to find your Representative and send them a letter, or this page for contact information for Colorado's Senators.