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After an entire day of #SOPASTRIKE on the web, joined by giants like Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing, Google, WordPress, Mozilla, and many others, the discussion over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is still far from coming to an end.
Wednesday January 18, a large number of sites voluntarily blacked out for 24 hours – from 8 am to 8 pm EST – while other sites, as a sign of solidarity, featured anti-SOPA content on their home pages to protest against this controversial anti-piracy bill considered by opponents a real threat to internet freedom.
The SOPA strike was the largest online protest in the history of the Internet, “Nothing like this has ever happened before,” commented Fight For the Future, a non-profit that helped organize the virtual strike.
“This is the biggest online protest in history, and it’s no wonder,” said Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight For The Future. “Internet users have grown up around the abuse of copyright laws to punish political speech, creativity, and successful businesses. So the thought of giving rightsholders the power to erase entire sites from the web is horrifying to us.”
Millions of people defending the online community and its right to freedom of speech and expression, joined together both online and offline with the aim of pushing Congress to block the bill. Protestors were meeting up for street rallies in various American cities as New York and San Francisco and gathering in front of senators offices to make their voice heard.
The unprecedented online protest which has caught the attention of the world was sparked by an anti-piracy legislation that could change the Internet as we know it. In fact, the impact and the consequences of SOPA, and its related Senate bill PIPA (PROTECT IP Act), could be tragic for web users’ freedom of speech, for businesses, for users’ online privacy as for the nature of the Internet itself.
As stated by Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard University professor of constitutional law, in an open letter on the web, SOPA “would undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”
Also the Obama administration expressed skepticism over SOPA in an online statement released Saturday January 14, “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”
Moreover, the consequences of SOPA could go beyond the United States, triggering a global chain reaction as pointed out on November 2011 in an article of Cynthia Wong, director of the Project on Global Internet Freedom at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
“If SOPA and PIPA are enacted, the US government must be prepared for other governments to follow suit, in service to whatever social policies they believe are important—whether restricting hate speech, insults to public officials, or political dissent,” wrote Wong.
In spite of all the criticism, the unprecedented SOPA online protest, and the growing opposition it has roused, the Stop Online Piracy Act has not stopped its track yet. The debate is to be continued and the vote, even if delayed once again, is still on the Congress’ agenda, presumably for February.
The vote on the PIPA legislation is scheduled for January 24 but public opinion and that of the senators is still split, and controversy is far from over. What is sure is that next weeks will be crucial – for the future of internet.
Image Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/phillipstearns/