On Wednesday Internet users got a taste of what opponents of an intellectual property bill currently before Congress say the web could look like if the bill becomes law. Popular websites such as Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit, Google, and Wired “went dark” or otherwise modified their usual appearances to protest the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s corresponding Protect IP [Intellectual Property] Act (PIPA). Both bills are scheduled for major actions in the coming weeks.
The stated purpose of the bills, as their names imply, is to prevent piracy of copyrighted works such as motion pictures, music recordings, and books. They also contain provisions to disrupt the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other goods. The main targets of the legislation are “pirate” websites located in foreign countries where the United States has no jurisdiction and therefore no way of shutting them down.
In the absence of such jurisdiction, the U.S. government would put the onus on “U.S.-directed” websites to prevent Americans from accessing these foreign websites or even knowing they exist. Wired, which blacked out the headlines on its home page as its SOPA/PIPA protest, summarizes the major provisions of the bills and the dangers the magazine sees in them:
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