Saturday, January 21, 2012

SOPA & PIPA - How Much Real The Voice of the Virtual World Is Today

Location: Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Earlier this week, several prominent Web sites, including Wikipedia and Google, staged a protest of both SOPA and PIPA. The bills, supported by Hollywood and the recording industry, are designed to stop online piracy, but critics say they go too far. In its original form, SOPA would have allowed the U.S. government to order Internet service providers to all but eliminate Web sites that allegedly contain pirated material.

If you are unfamiliar with SOPA, please take a few minutes to watch this video:



PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting "creativity". The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites-- they just have to convince a judge that the site is "dedicated to copyright infringement."

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that's for a fix that won't work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

Internet companies have been complaining that the bills put them in the untenable position of having to be online police. They say they worry that the two bills could hold them responsible if users of their sites link to pirated content.

The companies said the bills could require your Internet provider to block websites that are involved in digital file sharing. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing could be stopped from linking to them — antithetical, they argue, to the ideal of an open Internet.

Internet companies have been complaining that the bills put them in the untenable position of having to be online police. They say they worry that the two bills could hold them responsible if users of their sites link to pirated content.

The companies said the bills could require your Internet provider to block websites that are involved in digital file sharing. And search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing could be stopped from linking to them — antithetical, they argue, to the ideal of an open Internet.

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced today that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, "will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution." Smith added that he has taken critics' concerns "seriously." The decision to wave the white flag on SOPA comes just hours after U.S. Senate leaders announced they had postponed their vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) scheduled for Tuesday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the recent criticism on both SOPA and PIPA forced his hand.

Over the last several weeks, the number of people and groups opposing the bill soared, making it politically untenable for Washington lawmakers to support the measure, especially in an election year. At the last Republican presidential debate, all four candidates--Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney--distanced themselves from the bills, saying that SOPA and PIPA go too far.

Google Inc. announced yesterday it collected more than 7 million signatures (an insane 4.5 million in the first day itself!) from the U.S. for its online petition to Congress during an Internet protest against anti- piracy legislation backed by Hollywood. Google participated in the protests yesterday by placing a giant black censor bar over their logo on the homepage. Users who clicked on the logo (or the link below the search box) were taken to a landing page that said “End Piracy, Not Liberty.” Along with informational resources on the two bills, users could also sign a petition to tell Congress not to censor the web.

Click Here to View the PDF version
As thousands of sites, big and small, went dark or altered themselves to protest the Protect IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House, the protest also brought to light several creative approaches - through design and copy - irrelevant of whether the posting was on an individual or corporate level.

GOOGLE, WIKIPEDIA, WIRED & HUFFINGTON POST

Google participated in the protests by placing a giant black censor bar over their logo on the homepage


John McWade, the founder and creative director of BA Magazine, describes the Wikipedia protest page design perfectly. "You’re standing in the dark. No photos, no color. Simple text on a dimly backlit screen casts forward a long, low-in-the-sky shadow that fades into the blackness and conveys the impending, almost-here darkness of “a World Without Free Knowledge.”


Wired.com ran a headline that read, “Why We’re Censoring Wired Today” — if you could read it before most of the words on the page were symbolically redacted. (If you moved your cursor over the black bars the words would reappear.)

The one headline that wasn’t blocked read: “Don’t Censor the Web. Tell Congress No on SOPA and PIPA.”

Huffington Post followed a similar pattern on the Google+ posts that spread virally through comments.

LIFE WITHOUT WIKIPEDIA
After Wikipedia shut down at midnight on Tuesday, Jan. 18, students everywhere began to panic about how they were going to do their homework. Just when students everywhere were about to throw in the towel, the Twitterverse decided that, if they couldn't have actual facts, they would be forced to make up their own. Below are a few choice tweets that were tagged with "#FactsWithoutWikipedia" presenting some interesting and hilarious takes on the world without Wikipedia.







There were attempts by some including the RIAA Vice President to make their voice heard. Though thought provoking, it had few takers to RT.


Then there were interesting articles by the likes of BBC, providing the obvious alternative, which did sound like voices from another century altogether with suggestions including going to the library, using the phone and visiting sites like Encyclopedia.com

INFOGRAPHIC @ VISUAL.LY
An intesting infographic was posted at Visual.ly deliberating the scenario in a world without Wikipedia.


YOUTUBE VIDEO - INTERNET WITHOUT A VOICE
YouTube creators +Shay Carl, +Nice Peter, Totally Sketch and Traphik put together a video that explores a striking consequence if Congress passed a bill that would censor the Internet.



EMERGENCY TED EVENT
TED has posted an “emergency” TED Talk called “Defend Our Freedom To Share (Or Why SOPA is a Bad Idea)” by Internet writer and NYU professor Clay Shirky. Shirky gave his address at the New York offices of TED, the company that produces a popular series of conferences and lectures about “ideas worth spreading.”

Shirky begins the 14-minute video with a story about a bakery that printed children’s drawings on sugar plates for their birthday cakes. This became a problem because kids like to draw cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse.

“It turns out to be illegal to print a child’s drawing of Mickey Mouse onto a plate of sugar,” he says.



ZUCKERBERG TWEETS IN ALMOST THREE YEARS!
Although Facebook has been public about its opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been personally silent on the matter. Until now. Zuckerberg came out against SOPA and PIPA with postings on both Facebook and Twitter. In the case of Twitter, it appeared to be Zuckerberg's first tweet in nearly three years.


On Facebook, Zuckerberg was very clear about his position:

"The internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can't let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet's development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.

The world today needs political leaders who are pro-internet. We have been working with many of these folks for months on better alternatives to these current proposals. I encourage you to learn more about these issues and tell your congressmen that you want them to be pro-internet."

HOW REAL IS THE THREAT FROM SOPA AND PIPA
For starters, you might not ever see MegaUpload.com again. As I write this, news has immerged of the arrest of the site's founders in New Zealand. Federal prosecutors have accused it of costing copyright holders more than $500m (£320m) in lost revenue. The firm says it was diligent in responding to complaints about pirated material.

 

CNET has posted a detailed FAQ to help you understand SOPA and how it affects you. And if you do feel that you missed out being a part of it, you can still visit the Google Petition Page and make your voice heard.