Imagine going to look for some information on the internet only to discover that site after site is down or blocked.
If the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is signed into law, some folks think blank or down websites is exactly what users will get in the name of stopping copyright infringement on the web.
In a nutshell, SOPA gives government and major corporations the ability to shut down websites they think violate copyright laws without a trial or even a traditional court hearing. Hollywood movie studios and recording companies are all for this, claiming to have suffered losses in the millions of dollars because of illegal downloads and file sharing.
Several websites are going dark or posting messages today, Jan. 18, to support not passing SOPA: Google, Wikipedia, TwitPic, reddit and ICanHazCheezburger.com are just a few participating in the online protest. Neither AOL nor Patch is participating though both companies firmly support an open and free web.
"As written, we cannot support the bills. We believe an open Internet is critical for innovation, job creation, and the sustained growth of Internet businesses. We are in the process of working directly with lawmakers to improve the bills," said Tekedra N. Mawakana, AOL's Senior Vice President of Public Policy.
Locally, Rob Zerban, the Kenosha businessman challenging Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), in support of killing the SOPA bill. Like many lawmakers in Washington, Ryan has stated he no longer supports SOPA because of the possibility for censorship and legal abuse.