* I won’t be joining this protest in deed, but I will be with them in spirit…
Wikipedia, the popular community-edited online encyclopedia, will black out its English-language site for 24 hours to seek support against proposed U.S. anti-piracy legislation that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said threatens the future of the Internet.
The U.S. service will be the highest profile name to join a growing campaign starting at midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday that will see it black out its page so that visitors will only see information about the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
The SOPA legislation under consideration in the House of Representatives aims to crack down on online sales of pirated American movies, music or other goods by forcing Internet companies to block access to foreign sites offering material that violates U.S. copyright laws. Supporters argue the bill is unlikely to have an impact on U.S.-based websites.
U.S. advertising networks could also be required to stop online ads, and search engines would be barred from directly linking to websites found to be distributing pirated goods.
* But there does seem to be a rewrite ahead…
Three key section of the existing legislation seem likely to remain, a person familiar with the matter says. They comprise provisions aimed at getting search engines to disable links to foreign infringing sites; provisions that cut off advertising services to those sites; and provisions that cut off payment processing.
But critical provisions that would require Internet service providers such as Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp. to cut off infringing sites through a technology known as DNS blocking are now likely to be eliminated.
Critics have said that such measures would only encourage people to navigate the web in riskier ways, with modified browsers or other tweaks that could lead to their Internet sessions getting hijacked by scammers.
Lawmakers had already been coming around to the realization they would have to hold back on the DNS-blocking provisions.
Those DNS provisions were amazingly stupid.
* And I couldn’t agree more with the American Society of News Editors’ stance against SOPA…
ASNE condemns content piracy, regardless of medium. Our members consider their content to be their most valuable asset. Unauthorized use of this content has always been a problem; its impact has increased with the advent of the Internet and has certainly undercut the financial well-being of America’s news media.
However, our members use the Internet in ways that could be construed to violate SOPA, and that’s not acceptable. Whether utilizing content contributed by third parties, stepping outside the direct reporter-source interaction to acquire and use information from websites around the world, or augmenting our stories through the use of multimedia previously unavailable to print-only publications, ASNE members continue to change the way news is presented. We fear that SOPA will restrict our ability to engage in these activities and stifle our capacity to innovate when we most sorely need the freedom to do so.
Ultimately, however, it is our longstanding dedication to First Amendment rights that drives our opposition to SOPA. Navigating the balance between copyright and free speech demands precision, and in seeking to protect the interests of copyright holders, the First Amendment requires Congress to adopt the least restrictive intrusion on speech available.
SOPA fails this test. It allows individual copyright owners to effect the most onerous restriction on speech — the prior restraint — with little evidence and virtually no due process, utilizing vague and overbroad definitions in the process. While it is directed at “rogue” websites engaged in widespread piracy, the law carries the real potential to go well beyond that narrow target. Without endorsing them, we note that more narrowly tailored alternatives have already been proposed. Their existence calls into question the constitutionality of SOPA and suggests that this Committee must reject H.R. 3261 and continue to examine other, less restrictive alternatives that strike the right balance between preventing piracy and protecting free expression.
We hope you agree. Again, we support your ultimate goal of eradicating online content piracy. We simply feel that this particular formulation is not precise enough to protect legitimate free speech rights. But we believe the right balance can be struck and are committed to working with your Committee and all Members of Congress to accomplish it.
* Considering that some of the most frequent copyright violators in Illinois are Republican Party officials, perhaps this whole thing needs to be rethought. What do I mean about these violators? Well, the Illinois Republican Party posts full-length news stories on its website every day. Here’s an example. The state Senate Republicans do the same.