Changing the web forever?

January 22, 2012

Tech giants protest against two online anti-piracy US bills
Those of you who visited Wikipedia’s English page, Google, Mozilla, WordPress or Reddit on January 18 might have thought that they have changed the outlook and black was the in thing in web designing, but these major websites censored their own sites to observe the “blackout” protest against two online anti-piracy US bills SOPA and PIPA- currently under consideration on Capitol Hill.
The websites censored their pages with black bars and blacked-out pages.
You now must be wondering what SOPA and PIPA actually are? What is the big deal about these anti-piracy bills that such big online players had to protest it in such a way?
Imagine posting a video online of your cousin’s wedding, where the young ones put on a dance show to current super hit movie songs or tunes and you want to show relatives and friends in Sylhet or Sydney or wherever who couldn’t make it and say anybody in the world interested in checking out what goes on in a Dhaka wedding.
The site, where you posted the video, is accused of copyright infringement and gets a notice to shut down, along with its sources for operating costs because of the background music.
Although the video is non-commercial for users, it’s a commercial asset to the site, which uses ad revenue to cover operating costs, make profits, etc.
With SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), the accuser has the power to cut the site’s funding, leading to shut-down, not just the video posting site, but any sites like it.
SOPA and PIPA are the two US bills that are intended to strengthen protections against copyright infringement and intellectual property theft, but internet advocates say they would suppress expression on the internet.
Those who support the bills say the SOPA and PIPA will protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of music, movie and TV studios.
The bills would give the US Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites willfully committing or facilitating intellectual property theft — “rogue” sites like The Pirate Bay for an example. The US government would be able to force US-based companies, like internet service providers, credit card companies and online advertisers, to cut off ties with those sites.
Quite a few companies including the music and film industries are supporting the bills.
Content groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and business representatives like the US Chamber of Commerce, say that innovation and jobs in content-creating industries are threatened by growing internet piracy. Foreign websites are safe haven for internet pirates profiting off their content, they say.
On the other hand the websites and tech giants against the bills argue that SOPA and PIPA would allow for a censoring of the internet that would forever alter the web.
Those who are opposing the bill say SOPA has a vague language which would create devastating new tools for silencing legitimate speech all around the web. And they are sure that the vague language will be abused.
According to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), the bill targets nearly any site that hosts user–generated content, or even just has a search function, by failing to provide protections for legal speech.
The opposition of the bill includes civil liberties and human rights organisations, tech industry leaders, security experts, legal scholars, bipartisan legislators, and many more.
When asked, Sumon Ahmed Sabir, managing director and director, BD Com Online Ltd said if the bills are passed, along with others, Bangladeshis may also face problems getting information on internet. For example, he said, if Wikipedia, the largest information source on the internet, gets shut down people around the globe will have problem in information gathering. However, Sumon hoped the bills would be withdrawn.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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