Internet giants threaten

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Website entrepreneur Ben Huh have declared their support for a coordinated protest against controversial U.S. anti-piracy legislation.

Their announcements follow a similar one made by user-driven news Website Reddit, which declared on Tuesday that it will be "blacking out" on 18 January from 8am to 8pm Eastern Time, to oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Instead of running the site as usual it will display a message explaining the proposed laws and a live stream of a hearing by the U.S. Committee of Oversight and Government Reform on their potential impact.

PIPA and SOPA are anti-piracy bills proposed in May and October 2011 respectively. They intend to block access to copyright-infringing Websites by denying access to them via search engines or DNS servers in an effort to curb piracy and protect content creators' revenues.

SOPA's supporters include Disney, Warner Brothers, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

"The freedom, innovation, and economic opportunity that the Internet enables is in jeopardy," Reddit warned in a blog post. "Congress is considering legislation that will dramatically change your Internet experience and put an end to Reddit and many other sites you use every day."

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales said in a discussion on the encyclopaedia Website that he was in favour of synchronising with Reddit's protest.

"I'm all in favour of it [the blackout], and I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit," Wales said on Wednesday. "I'd like to talk to our government affairs advisor to see if they agree on this as useful timing.

"Assuming that's a green light, I think that matching what Reddit does (but in our own way of course) per the emerging consensus on how to do it, is a good idea," he said.

The Wikipedia Foundation stated that it will support whatever action the Wikipedia community decides to take.

Furthermore, Ben Huh, CEO of a network of popular culture Websites known as the Cheezburger Network, said on Twitter that he will also be joining Reddit.

"All Cheezburger sites will also be instituting a blackout on January 18th
to protest SOPA and PIPA," he tweeted on Thursday.

Additionally, Fox News reported at the end of 2011 that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon had also considered their own blackout to protest the legislation, according to trade associate group NetCoalition, which represents their interests.

"A number of companies have had discussions about that [a blackout day]," said NetCoalition executive director Markham Erickson, at the end of December, suggesting that a coordinated protest would raise awareness of the proposed legislation.

"This type of thing doesn't happen because companies typically don't want to put their users in that position," he said. "The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet."

However, a spokeswoman for NetCoalition told Total Telecom that the industry body is not involved with the blackout taking place on 18 January.

Meanwhile a source familiar with the situation told Total Telecom that Facebook was tracking the developments, but was unable to comment on whether the social network planned to take part in the protest.
History of opposition

An Internet blackout is not the first example of coordinated efforts against SOPA. Browser maker Mozilla protested in November alongside blogging Websites Tumblr and Techdirt by overlaying a black banner displaying the words "Stop Censorship" across their logos.

Internet hosting service Go Daddy initially supported the legislation; however, after a boycott led by Reddit in December and followed by Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, it announced that it would no longer support the act.

"Fighting online piracy is of the utmost importance, which is why Go Daddy has been working to help craft revisions to this legislation - but we can clearly do better," Go Daddy CEO Warren Adelman stated. "It's very important that all Internet stakeholders work together on this. Getting it right is worth the wait. Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it."

Meanwhile founders of Internet giants including Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay and Paypal urged U.S. Congress in an open letter to Washington on 14 December to be cautious before implementing SOPA or PIPA.

"We've all had the good fortune to found Internet companies and nonprofits in a regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship," they said. "We're worried that the Protect IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act – which started out as well-meaning efforts to control piracy online – will undermine that framework."

The founders of some of the biggest names on the Internet stated that the legislation would threaten to "censor the Web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia, and Iran.

Source: Total Telecom

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13 April 2024

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