Websites like Wikipedia go dark to protest SOPA
Several of your favorite online sites undergo a voluntary blackout, protesting a bill under review in Congress that could change the way we use the Internet forever. Our Megan Eaton has more.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Some Albany library computer users, like Laurie Gibbons, got a shock Wednesday when they tried to log onto the English Wikipedia
"With certain sites blacked out, it's kind of frustrating to come down here," Gibbons said. "It seems like wasting of my time since I can't get the information I need."
Wikipedia joined sites like Reddit and Twitpic in a day-long black out to protest anti-piracy legislation popping up in Congress.
"This is sending a very strong message that we don't want the Internet censored in any way," said Albert Davis of Albany.
SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is supposed to target foreign websites that share US movies and music. They'll have the ability to blacklist, or block, websites that carry copywritten content illegally. Congressional leaders say US sites aren't at risk. But according to Albany Law Professor Robert Heverly, the bill's vagueness in who and what it targets, suggests otherwise.
He explained, "It doesn't necessarily just apply to what we would consider to be foreign sites. It would apply to google.co.uk, which is a UK version of Google, for example. It would apply to Facebook."
The bill would require sites like Google, YouTube, and Facebook to make sure all of their online content is copyright infringement-free.
Heverly said, "Think about how many sites that Google deals with. That's really not an easy thing for Google to do to try to police every site it adds to its index. If it doesn't do that, then it's potentially subject to liability."
Which could drastically change the way those sites share content.
"Does that mean Google indexes less?" asked Heverly. "Now you can't find the neat sites because Google hasn't gotten to them or hasn't had a pair of eyes look at them to determine whether there's infringing material there?"
Giving Internet users a taste of what life would be like without them seems to be an effective boycott tool. But could sites like Wikipedia really face a more permanent shutdown under the proposed bill?
According to Heverly, "Any site that relies on user contributed content, it changes the game. It's a very different game at that point."
While Wikipedia's blackout is only for 24 hours, the impact SOPA could have on the Internet could last much longer, changing online surfing and uploading.
The Senate has a similar bill called the Protect IP Act. Hundreds of protesters, who are against SOPA and PIPA, camped out Wednesday in front of the New York City offices of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Chuck Schumer. Both bills are scheduled to go to their respective floors within the next month. Congressional leaders say they will look at scaling back on some of the vague content in an effort to satisfy both the movie industry, who are for the bill, and Internet providers, who are against.