What if you woke up one day and there was no Internet?
For those of us who are old enough to remember a world without instant access to information online, we most likely would grumble for a few minutes and move onto something else, while a much younger generation may find themselves lost in limbo.
To demonstrate a world without a Web, dozens of the internet’s most popular websites and search engines, have gone ‘dark’ Wednesday in protest of two bills currently sitting in Congress that are designed to stop copyright infringement on the World Wide Web.
The online encyclopedia giant, Wikipedia, has blacked-out its entire site to its users urging them to contact their representatives with this note:
“Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge: For over a decade, we have spent millions of hours building the largest encyclopedia in human history. Right now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”
While Facebook and Twitter have declined to participate in the online protest, despite their opposition to the House of Representatives' Stop Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's PROTECT Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), the mega sites are expressing solidarity by featuring anti-SOPA content on its home pages.
Google has blocked-out its name to symbolize what the bill may allow content creators to do to websites they accuse of copyright infringement and links to a site that allows users to sign a petition against the two acts.
While Wikipedia blacked-out the U.S. version of its website in protest, it did leave open an explaination of the two acts and the Wikipedia articles for SOPA and PIPA.
The acts would allow the government to require search engines to remove entire websites from their results, leaving no trace that they even existed.
SOPA would even allow the government and major corporations the power to shut down entire websites accused of copyright infringement without a trial or court hearing.
Calling the protests a "gimmick" and an "abuse of power," former Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, now the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement, "It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests," and called for its supporters to, "stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy."
However, Hollywood executives say piracy has become a growing problem, citing an increase in unscrupulous people who steal music and movies, make digital copies that are as crisp and clear as the originals, and offer them for download, often from overseas websites.
Michael O'Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America said in a statement, "For all these workers and their families, online content and counterfeiting by these foreign sites mean declining incomes, lost jobs and reduced health and retirement benefits."
Moving from behind their computers to the streets, protestors gathered outside the offices of Senator Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand in New York, co-sponsors of the Senate version of SOPA. As pressure mounts, both have expressed a willingness to compromise.
The Senate will begin voting on January 24th.