I was going to write a beer review tonight, but since the web has apparently gone on strike, I figured I’d spend a little time talking about that instead. Many sites, including the likes of Wikipedia and Reddit, have instituted a complete blackout as part of a protest against two ill-conceived pieces of censorship legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Congress (these laws are called the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act, henceforth to be referred to as SOPA and PIPA). I can’t even begin to pretend that blacking out my humble little site would accomplish anything, but since a lot of my personal and professional livelihood depends on the internet, I suppose I can’t ignore this either.
For the uninitiated, if the bills known as SOPA and PIPA become law, many websites could be taken offline involuntarily, without warning, and without due process of law, based on little more than an alleged copyright owner’s unproven and uncontested allegations of infringement1. The reason Wikipedia is blacked out today is that they depend solely on user-contributed content, which means they would be a ripe target for overzealous copyright holders. Sites like Google haven’t blacked themselves out, but have staged a bit of a protest as well, because under the provisions of the bill, even just linking to a site that infringes upon copyright is grounds for action (and thus search engines have a vested interest in defeating these bills).
I won’t belabor the point much further, but I will link to Kaedrin’s official stance on Intellectual Property, Copyright and DRM, a post I wrote a few years ago on my generalist blog that I think is still relevant. An expanded version of this post you’re reading right now is also up at my generalist blog, along with some other links and thoughts on the matter. Feel free to stop on by.
And if you’re so inclined, perhaps your form of protest could be represented by a different kind of blackout. Regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.
1 – Thanks to James for the concise description. There are lots of much longer longer and better sourced descriptions of the shortcomings of this bill and the issues surrounding it, so I won’t belabor the point here.