Google Joins U.S. Anti-Piracy Legislation Protest
Google is joining Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing and other online organizations in a massive online protest targeting the Stop Online Piracy Act before the House of Representatives, as well as the Protect Intellectual Property Act set for debate in the Senate.
"Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and Web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue Web sites without asking American companies to censor the Internet," a Google spokesperson said in a Tuesday e-mail. "So tomorrow we will be joining many other tech companies to highlight this issue on our U.S. home page."
By contrast, Wikipedia and other online services intend to bring their legislative concerns to the attention of Internet users everywhere by shutting down their respective online services for 24 hours on Wednesday.
"The blackout is a protest against proposed legislation in the United States that, if passed, would seriously damage the free and open Internet, including Wikipedia," noted Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner.
Measured and Meaningful Remedies
Among other things, the SOPA and PIPA bills would require U.S. companies with an online presence to impose censorship restrictions on foreign Internet sites hosting content that violates U.S. anti-piracy laws. Over the weekend, however, the White House indicated that it was opposed to some of the bills' provisions.
"While we believe that online piracy by foreign Web sites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet," three White House officials wrote in a blog.
On the other hand, the Motion Picture Association of America and other U.S. entertainment industry groups believe that to shut down piracy, the SOPA and PIPA bills must include measured and reasonable remedies that include severing the sites' connections to ad brokers, payment processors and search engines.
"American jobs are threatened by thieves from foreign-based rogue Web sites," noted MPAA Senior Executive Vice President Michael O'Leary. "This deplorable situation persists because U.S. law enforcement does not have the tools to fight back."
The MPAA also sought to draw a sharp distinction between illegal conduct and free speech. "Misinformation simply can't be allowed to replace honest debate, and derail the critically important fight to protect American jobs," O'Leary wrote in a blog.
Still, Gartner Research Director Ian Glazer believes that using censorship tools to enforce copyright would end up doing more harm than good. The DNS filtering that SOPA and PIPA propose would break federation and end up denying service to more than a single infringing Web site, he wrote in a blog.
"SOPA and Protect-IP prevent people, who use services from that accused domain, from using services like PubMed and every other relying party such as Flickr, Google Apps [and] Salesforce.com," Glazer explained. "This, my friends, is the definition of collective punishment."
Though Wikipedia strives to maintain neutrality when covering controversial topics, the online encyclopedia's administrators recently reached the conclusion that maintaining neutrality about SOPA and PIPA was not an option because the proposed legislation threatens the organization's very existence.
Given that anti-piracy bills are being formulated all around the world that could potentially hurt online freedom, Wikipedia decided that a global blackout was the more appropriate action for it to take.
"Censorship without due process hurts the speaker, the public and Wikimedia," said Wikimedia board member Kat Walsh. "Where you can only speak if you have sufficient resources to fight legal challenges -- or if your views are pre-approved by someone who does -- the same narrow set of ideas already popular will continue to be all anyone has meaningful access to."
Posted: 2012-01-17 @ 8:18pm PT
The Gestapo comes to the internet!
Posted: 2012-01-17 @ 2:54pm PT
It's nice that Google's homepage will be changed for the protest, but if they'd go a step further, like Wikipedia, then it would really send a message.
POLL: Do you support the 7000+ sites going black to protest SOPA?