There’s a word that’s been floating around for the last few months that strikes fear into the hearts of internet users everywhere. SOPA. It stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, and it threatens to disrupt the entire internet as we know it. Essentially, it gives copyright holders the ability to make entire websites disappear from the internet for hosting infringing material. What’s more is that even if the infringing material comes from a user who uploaded it to the site, the owner of the site pays the price.
Now, you might think that it’s a bit extreme, but not necessarily a devastating piece of legislature. Well if you enjoy using sites such as YouTube or Reddit, these could easily disappear, should the bill pass. All it would take is for the MPAA to find one clip from a movie that was uploaded, and they could have YouTube blocked in the US. They could also lose their ad revenue, thus taking away their ability to provide videos to the rest of the world. Love Wikipedia? If they get caught hosting a single copyrighted image without the right permissions, it could disappear overnight.
There is already a huge movement to oppose the bill, but it needs all the help it can get. If you’re wondering what you can do, you might have a look at AmericanCensorship.org. If you run a WordPress site, you could install this plugin, which adds a small banner at the top of your site, linking back to the aforementioned site. Now if you want to take things a step further, you could join sites like Reddit, The Cheeseburgur Network, Minecraft, BoingBoing, Mozilla, TuCows and others by blacking out your site on Wednesday, January 18th. Again, if you’re a WordPress user, there is a plugin for this, which will add a temporary 503 status (which won’t harm your search engine rankings).
If you’re looking for other ways to participate, Google+ users can look here, while Twitter users should check out this page. If you’re passionate about the cause, I would suggest doing something to show your support, however small.
Also, you may have heard that SOPA has been shelved. However, that doesn’t mean that we’ve won, by any means. There is still the very real possibility that we will see it again, sooner, rather than later. Also, there is another bill working its way through the Senate, which is called the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). This bill could prove to be just as destructive as SOPA.
As for the Red Ferret, we too will be shutting down the site this coming Wednesday from 8am to 8pm EST to show our support. While we love providing you fresh content each weekday, this bill threatens our very operation (along with thousands of other sites), and we feel that this is the best way we can show where we stand. We will resume normal operations and posting on Thursday.