If you were planning on completing any half-hearted research today, you’d better reassess how you spend your day. Wikipedia is inactive today in protest of SOPA and a related bill, PIPA (although you can still access Wikipedia’s page on SOPA). SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is an online piracy bill brought in front of the House of Representatives in October 2011. If passed, the bill would not only make it illegal to stream (unauthorized) copyrighted content, it would censor such sites from internet search engines and allow the Department of Justice to take court action against any site accused of facilitating copyright infringement—or even linking to it. Goodbye Flickr, Vimeo, Etsy, our beloved Hype Machine and pretty much any music blog; prepared to be crippled by lawsuits, YouTube and Twitter. Indeed, according to some clever consultants, the majority of investors will stop funding “digital content intermediaries,” e.g. eBay and SoundCloud, if the bill is passed.
Unsurprisingly, sites such as Wikipedia, WordPress, Vimeo, Reddit are vehemently against the bill and have all limited their content for the day in protest. Google has blocked out their logo with a giant black censorship rectangle (yes, that’s why your Google homepage looks like that, no one has died). Again unsurprisingly, the Motion Picture Association is all for a SOPA law. Looks like we are regressing to the pre-Wikipedia early 2000s for the day, no one happens to have a spare Encarta cd-rom lying around, do they?