We have decided to show our solidarity with the opponents of the SOPA and PIPA bills and black out our websites on Wednesday, January 18th.
The danger is real and we feel people need to have their eyes opened. This action helps to achieve this. We are nothing on our own, but if we link together and help to spread this around through websites all around the world, we can help create something that can no longer be ignored.
So what threat do these bills actually pose? SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, would give the United States government the ability to effectively cut off any site it deemed responsible for any sort of copyright violation - or any site that provides information that could help people get around various restrictions. That last part is kind of what we've been doing for the last 28 years and we have no intention of stopping - or being stopped.
PIPA is an acronym within an acronym (PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act)), which is probably the most imaginative part of this bill. The reality is that PIPA tries to address the complicated issue of infringement with the rather simplistic notion of ordering search engines to "de-list" objectionable sites. This heavy-handed act of erasure is something we might expect to see in a repressive regime, which, oddly enough, would be condemned by the very same government trying to unload this on us.
You may have heard that we've gotten a reprieve, that the White House has come out in opposition, that congressmen are dropping their support, that corporations are doing an about face, and that the battle has been won. Don't be fooled. For one thing, these bills are far from dead. True, they're taking quite a beating because of the actions of the Internet community. But they're still a huge threat. Secondly, even if SOPA and PIPA go down in flames, you can bet something else with a different clever acronym will come along in the future, just as there have been so many failed attempts in the past. Nearly all governments and large corporations want to control how the net works. None of that should surprise us. And don't think for a moment that winning this battle will eliminate the overall threat.
Let us also realize that the actions of so many of you have gone a long way in helping to preserve the openness of the Internet, which actually has a trickle-down effect on societies all around the world. Using social networking sites for social justice has resulted in huge movements that have toppled dictators and changed regimes. We are talking to each other, something that scares the crap out of any controlling entity. We've seen this happen in many ways in recent months and years: a movement begins, the mass media ignores it, the movement mushrooms through global networking, and suddenly it becomes front page news. It's a great achievement, but it has to continue evolving in order to remain relevant.
From midnight Wednesday morning to midnight Thursday morning (Eastern Time), we will be blacking out the main 2600 website, our hope.net conference site, and even our Internet store. Yes, we are more than willing to take a financial hit if it means that it gets people's attention. If this gets others to do the same, it will be a worthy investment.
Please continue to talk about this with the people you know and to get as much information as possible on this subject and others that are constantly changing. An excellent starting point is this article over at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It's precisely because of the actions of these groups and individuals like yourself that we're able to get this issue the attention it deserves and enjoy the sight of politicians backpedaling.
Imagine one day being punished for reading this information, or not being able to find it in the first place because those in power deemed it offensive. These bills don't quite do that. But they take a very big step in that direction. And it's precisely by taking such steps that the landscape around us changes dramatically and negatively over time. This is what we're fighting.