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Background Information: SOPA, PIPA and the Internet Blackout

You may have some trouble navigating the web today, and it’s all driven by a an Internet blackout protest against proposed Congressional legislation intended to stop copyright infringementand privacy. Read on for a brief introduction to SOPA and PIPA legislation, where they stand in Congress, and why they impact every business andindividual with a web presence.

sopa censorshipSOPA

SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, or House Bill 3261, was introduced to the United States House of Representatives on Oct. 26, 2011 with bipartisan support. Its intent is to more heavily enforce copyright infringement across the web, holding severe consequences for any site owner whose property is found to be in disobedience.

  • Advocates, largely those in and supporting the entertainment industry, believe the bill is needed to crack down on increasing levels of online piracy, particularly from foreign websites.
  • Dissenters believe that SOPA goes against First Amendment rights, is a form of Internet censorship and would limit information accessibility on the web.

SOPA hearings were held in November and December 2011. On Jan. 13, 2012, a provision that would have required service providers to block access to International sites accused of piracy was dropped.

The following day, the White House announced its opposition to SOPA, stating that it will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber-security risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

Congress shelved SOPA on Jan. 14, until a strong consensus is arrived upon. On Jan. 17 it was announced that markup of SOPA will likely resume next month.

SOPA background sources: Wikipedia | WashingtonMonthly.com

PIPA

PIPA, the PROTECT IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property) Act, or Senate Bill 968, is a similar measure in the Senate, intended to provide additional support for US government and copyright holders to restrict access to counterfeit and piracy-laded sites, again particularly targeting foreign sites.

It was introduced on May 11, 2011, also with bipartisan support. There is a hearing scheduled today to discuss its potential impact. PIPA is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Jan. 24. 

Support and dissent against PIPA mirrors that of SOPA.

PIPA Background Source: Wikipedia

In Summary

Both SOPA and PIPA want to eradicate online piracy and copyright infringement, but opponents believe they risk innovation, economic growth, information access and basic civil liberties. SOPA is a House bill; PIPA is a Senate bill. (And if you need some background on what this means ... Click.)

Is there an alternative? A bipartisan group of Congressional representatives developed the OPEN Act, which “addresses many of the most glaring flaws in both SOPA and PIPA.” (Source) The group asks for community collaboration on the bill. 

Today, in mass protest against SOPA and PIPA legislation, many web owners and tech giants tare taking a stand by blacking out their sites. A few examples:

  • Google blacked out its logo
  • Wikipedia blacked out all content (except information on SOPA)
  • Reddit and Copyblogger are going dark for 12 hours

Read about how we’ve come to this point in the PR 20/20 blog post that follows the growth of the anti-SOPA movement

Resources on SOPA & PIPA’s Potential Impact

For additional information on what SOPA and PIPA may mean to you and your business, see the following resources:

For details on how the SOPA movement made its way across the internet, see Jessica Donlon's (@jessicadonlonfollow-up to this post.

Are you moved to act? Visit americancensorship.org to contact your Senator, voice an opinion, and motivate change.  

Laurel Miltner is the assistant vice president at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Follow Laurel on Twitter: @laurelmackenzie.

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