As most of you know, today marks the web-wide protest of two pieces of legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). This article in Forbes does a good job of fleshing out what these bills entail. Ironically, my first technological instinct for obtaining a good outline of the bills designated my typing “wikipedia” in my browser (which is currently engaged in a 24-hour shutdown of their English-language site).
While the aims of the bill are generally applauded even by proponents, the unintential outcome of this legislation is what has the tech industry worried. SOPA and PIPA are designed to make it difficult for websites to dessimnate pirated copyright materials, namely muisc and movies.
But the consequences for these bills is that this kind of censorship will affect a business’ entire site, not just the pinpointed unlawful activity the legislations are specifically geared towards preventing. If passed, the fear is that lawful activity will be hindered and censored, on top of stifling innovation and economic growth within the businesses themselves.
As The New York Times coverage reported earlier today,
“This is the first real test of the political strength of the Web, and regardless of how things go, they are no longer a pushover,” said Professor Wu, who is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.” He added, “The Web taking a stand against one of the most powerful lobbyers and seeming to get somewhere is definitely a first.”
This is an extremely important moment for the tech industry, as the articel so succinctly opens, “[it is] a political coming of age for a relatively young and disorganized industry that has largely steered clear of lobbying and other political games in Washington. “