Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has decided to join a protest of SOPA by shutting down his site on Wednesday.
Calling it a “decision of the Wikipedia community,” Wales said he plans to join other Web sites in ceasing operations to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial antipiracy bill being debated in Congress.
Last week, the news site Reddit announced it would shut down for 12 hours on Wednesday to express its displeasure with SOPA and Protect IP, its Senate sister. Other sites, including the Cheezburger Network, home to massively popular Internet meme sites like I Can Has Cheezburger, have also said they will join the Web blackout.
The bills are heavily supported by a wide group of copyright owners, including the big record companies and Hollywood film studios. Copyright owners charge that online piracy has damaged their businesses and costs workers their jobs. However, Web companies and human rights groups have asserted that if the bills became law, they would rob the Web of free speech and damage the health of the Internet.
In what many in the tech sector saw as a victory, Rep. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one of SOPA’s biggest backers, announced Friday that he plans to remove SOPA’s DNS-block requirement, which would have allowed the Justice Department to obtain a court order to make a suspected piratical Web site effectively vanish. That development followed an announcement by Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who sponsored PIPA, that he would delete similar DNS requirements from the Senate version.
“We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table,” Wales said in a tweet this morning. “PIPA is still alive and kicking. We need to send Washington a BIG message.”
The outage will last 24 hours and affect only the English language version of the site, Wales said.
“I’m proud to be able in some small way to have a leadership role against censorship,” Wales said. “But the community gets the credit here.”
I’ve been hearing chants around the internet today that are quite literally “ding dong, SOPA is dead!” After some news this weekend, many are writing off the bill entirely. Here’s what happened to make them believe that.
- The White House published an official opinion that indicated they would not support a bill like SOPA
- The official vote on SOPA scheduled for late January has been cancelled, and the bill has been pulled from the floor.
So is it dead? Did we win? No, and here’s why:
- In that same statement, the White House also said “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response…” followed later by ““That is why the Administration calls on all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders.” They still want to pass anti-piracy legislation this year.
- SOPA is not dead, it’s been “shelved” and won’t return “until a consensus is reached.”
- Protect IP (PIPA), the Senate version of the House bill, is still very much alive, and has not even been shelved, much less killed. It is equally as bad of an idea as SOPA, even if most protests are being directed at SOPA recently.
So what does this mean? Though the battle is won, the war is not. SOPA could easily make a resurgence if it sculpts itself to whatever the White House’s unspecified specifications are, and PIPA could also pass, as even with recent changes to it (courts can’t force ISPs to block websites), it’s still harmful.
Some on the internet are describing what’s happening now as an old sales tactic. You make a ludicrous offer on something (SOPA), then retract it and make a new, slightly less crazy one (PIPA, or a reshaped SOPA) that suddenly feels sane by comparison, and the other party accepts.
The entertainment industry didn’t spend millions lobbying Congress for these two bills just to give up now, and as such, you should expect this fight to continue. As I’ve said before, these bills can’t be changed or postponed, they must be crushed. We’re getting there.