The internet is alive with news of the SOPA and PIPA related blackout, this is a quick run down the list of key terms and players.
The blackout is due to run from 5:00 AM GMT to 5:00 AM GMT, 18 to 19 January 2012, for a full 24 hours.
The Stop Online Piracy Act is a ridiculous piece of legally dubious waffle that is either unenforceably vague, or would utterly destroy huge swathes of the internet. It is sites such as Wikipedia and reddit that stand to suffer most from the act, as it could cause enormous sections of their user-generated content to become unlawful overnight.
It is currently in a great amount of trouble, as it has been delayed until some “outstanding concerns” can be, uh, remedied. It ain’t dead yet, though!
The special interests and very special senators that support the bill are listed here.
PIPA, or the Protect Internet Privacy Act, is a similar law going through the Senate. Interestingly, it is intended to especially strongly target sites originating from outside the U.S. This is clearly supposed to target chancers like the Swedish “Pirate Bay” mob, but makes America appear embarrassingly insular and protectionist online, in a way that no other fully democratic nation is.
PIPA is still very much alive.
Obviously, Wikipedia is a major player here, and probably the most important – not everyone knows who boingboing.net or reddit are (yes, even now), and we can get amusing photoshops elsewhere if we really do desperately need them. Wikipedia, however, is a vast repository of information that many have come to rely on.
Boingboing.net is home to the apparently visionary author Cory Doctorow, who has predicted events very similar to these (albeit enacted in “real life”) in parts of his insightful novel and polemic, Makers, where real life user-generated contents starts to be targeted by old, outdated institutions that feel threatened.
In the book, the main enemy is Disney; in real life, it appears as though it’s the U.S. government itself.
Other Major Players
Some of the biggest guns, other than Wikipedia, are boingboing.net, Mozilla, reddit and the Cheezburger network. There are also gamer networks, mobilised in part by early and angry coverage throughout mainstream gamer news outlets such as escapistmagazine.com, including Destructoid, Good Old Games and indie game smash hit Minecraft, as well as political sites and comic strips.
There is no limit to getting involved, and the number of “unfiltered” or unconfirmed participants has hit 1800. If you are interested, you can get involved here.
An online “strike” of this size and on this scale has never been seen before. It could further entrench the U.S. government, through a desire to avoid setting a precedent, it could cause them to fold like a house of cards, we’ll have to wait and see.
If websites do have the power to influence government policy through acts like this, well, I’m glad it was Wikipedia who did it first. I’m doubly glad it was over a cause as worthy as this.
I can’t help but be a little worried about who else could start throwing their weight around, though…