DENVER (CBS4) – The popular Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia will go dark for a day on Wednesday. It’s joining other websites to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act — a bill that’s been getting a lot of attention on Twitter and blogs.
Wikipedia, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Facebook and others say if the bill passes they would be forced to monitor everything their users do. They argue the bill would not be an invasion of privacy, but could put them out of business.
The film and music industry says their intellectual property rights are being violated. They say there’s a proliferation of rogue websites, with many based offshore and out of reach of U.S. copyright laws. Right now there’s nothing to stop them from selling bootlegged works.
Nobody denies online piracy of movies and music is rampant. The Motion Picture Association and recording industry say it costs them billions of dollars a year. Unions say it costs thousands of jobs.
Longtime Colorado concert promoter Barry Fey says it costs all of us.
“In old days the record companies charged much too much for their product, and that gave way to this piracy,” Fey said. “Then when the acts couldn’t get their money from the records, they just charged more for their tickets, where tickets were $60 or $70. They’re now $200, $300, $400.
So Congress set out to rectify the problem with the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. It would allow the Justice Department and/or copyright holders to get court orders to do several things. It can bar advertisers and payment processors like PayPal from doing business with a rogue site, order search engines like Google to stop listing it, and force Internet service providers like Comcast to block access to it.
“As well-intended as this law may be, it will chill innovation and it will chill free speech,” Sen. Mark Udall said.
Udall worries if the bill passes there will be less incentive to create the next YouTube, for example. Right now, if someone posts copyrighted material on YouTube, it’s not liable as long as it removes it as soon as its notified.
Under SOPA a violator would include not only sites that engage in, but facilitate copyright infringement.
Google says it’ll be forced to be the piracy police.
Supporters of the act say it’s aimed at the most egregious offenders. Barry Fey says either way the consumers have little to gain.
“If piracy went away today, album prices go back up, but ticket prices wouldn’t come back down,” Fey said. “The end result is the public gets gouged no matter what happens.”
Beyond financial concerns there are also security concerns with the bill. It allows the Justice Department to delist domain names, or virtual addresses, of suspect websites. That would create, essentially, a separate Internet blacklist.
Critics say splintering the Internet will make it more vulnerable to hackers.
The House will hear all the arguments and then some when it takes up the bill Thursday.
There is a similar bill in the Senate called the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. It’s different in that it targets only sites that are dedicated to copyright infringement.
Another bill called the Open Act works through the International Trade Commission to cut off funding to the sites.