Pending anti-piracy bills stir debate and protests

Written by: Shauna Bannan

Protesters holding signs to oppose SOPA and PIPA

Protesters fled to the streets of Manhattan to show their support against the SOPA and PIPA bills.

Proposed anti-piracy laws SOPA and PIPA have yielded protests and debate among Internet activists and the media industry as the House and Senate move closer to a decision.

Thousands of Internet sites and activists have recently come together to oppose two anti-piracy bills. The two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), would strengthen protection against copyright infringement by restricting access to foreign sites that enable the trading of pirated content.

There has been quite a fuss over the bills from content groups, media companies and business representatives, who argue that growing Internet piracy is threatening content-creating industries, and Internet advocates who contend that the bills would stifle innovation and censor free information.

Tech companies, like Wikipedia and Reddit, launched a “blackout” on their sites to protest against the bills.

Wikipedia’s English-language site displayed a message to viewers that read: “Imagine a world without free knowledge…The US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”

Viewers were redirected to the protest page just moments after their intended searches were displayed. The page also provided  links to SOPA and PIPA, specifying additional information on the proposed bills, and a link that would help visitors reach their member of Congress to oppose the bills.

BoingBoing, Mozilla and TwitPic also participated in the protest, while Facebook and Twitter opposed the legislation but did not participate in the blackout.

Google’s logo remained hidden behind a black rectangle, linking to a petition that drew more than seven million signatures opposing the bills.

“It’s still something we’re trying to comprehend,” Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith said. “We had such an overwhelming response to our petition that it honestly far exceeded our expectations.”

Congress has halted the debate on the two bills, postponing the vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that was originally scheduled for Jan. 24. Much of the decision was based on the recent events that were by Internet activists.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” said Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Committee Chairman. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”

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