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Google and Wiki blackout: What is SOPA and why it’s important

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Google is one many tech companies that are involved in the SOPA blackout.

No it’s not Spanish for soup.

The Stop Online Piracy Act proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.

The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.

Protecting proptery

Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. They cite examples such as Google’s $500 million settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to target U.S. consumers with ads to illegally import prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. MarkMonitor a brand protection firm, says websites that steal intellectual property cost legitimate businesses $130 billion annually.

Traditional media companies that have had trouble navigating the industry’s transition to the net are the biggest backers of the bills, as they have seen their movie and music content pirated at an exponential rate.

To much control

Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship, will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions. Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by English Wikipedia and major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter. Many companies are concerned that the bill would keep web traffic from flowing into offending website. This would be dire for companies that rely on a steady stream of internet visitors to make the bulk of their revenue.

Google has blacked out its logo on its homepage to protest SOPA and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA). Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has begun redirecting traffic from its main Mozilla.org and Mozilla.com English websites for 12 hours to a black page with a call-to-action message to make visitors aware of the problems posed by PIPA/SOPA. Wikipedia has blacked out its service for the day.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. began taking shots at Google on twitter for its public opposition to the bills. He said Google was a “piracy leader”, but his comments didn’t stop there. He then aimed his sights on bloggers stating that they were “terrorizing” the politicans who were on board with the SOPA and PIPA acts.

You can still access Wikipedia by following these steps from PCWorld.

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