Yesterday, the Internet went on strike in protest against new anti-piracy laws which the US Congress is looking to introduce.
Major websites including Wikipedia, WordPress and Reddit effectively created an “Internet blackout” by going offline between 8am and 8pm EST to highlight what many consider to be a significant threat to how we use the Internet.
If introduced, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would expand the ability of US law enforcement to combat online piracy and copyright-infringement. Clearly these are valid and widely supported intentions, but the drafted bill is so broad in its definitions that it would also expose many law-abiding businesses and individuals to new and uncertain liabilities; and it is for this reason that the protest took place.
There is so much controversy around the new legislation because under the terms of the proposed Act, websites accused of copyright-infringement would be forced to shut down immediately; without the opportunity to remove the offending item. This is clearly a major concern for those websites that host user generated content – the most obvious example being YouTube.
Commenters are also suggesting that the Act is a threat to online freedom of speech and that it could even bring about the end of ecommerce.
Whatever the implications of the bill, the question of how the authorities are going to enforce these new laws seems to have been overlooked. When you consider that over 48 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute and that millions of blog posts are published to sites like WordPress every single day, what kind of resources would be required to manage this?
What are your thoughts?
Do you think the SOPA bill will be passed? And will it have as big an impact as many are suggesting?