Why Is Wikipedia Down Today?

January 18, 2012

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As millions of students have already realized, Wikipedia is down today (January 18, 2012).  Did Wikipedia forget to pay their electric bill?

Nope, nothing like that.  Wikipedia and other big (and small) sites are participating in a blackout to protest SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act).  When the calendar flips to Thursday, Wikipedia will once again be live.

The intent of SOPA, sponsored by Texas congressman Lamar Smith, is to aid law enforcement agencies in their fight against intellectual property violations.  That sounds like a great thing, right?

The problem is that the government could shut down sites that are allegedly violating intellectual property laws without significant due  process.  SOPA would make also make a rights holder who falsely accused a site liable for damages.  However, under SOPA, it’s quite likely that rights holders would try to press the issue and attempt to force law enforcement agencies to grant them protection that exceeds what they are actually legally entitled to.  I think this because there already a lot of example of rights holders trying to expand the reach of their protections (no, I’m not talking about illegal downloads).

What SOPA would essentially do is turn the internet into a “shoot first and ask questions later” landscape.  Sites that operate without the boundaries of the law could get shut down while an investigation take place.  Whole sites could be taken down even if there were only a single case of copyright infringement – even if the site’s owner did not approve of then infringing content.  If a visitor to this site were to leave a long comment that they stole, lock, stock, and barrel, from someone else, I wouldn’t necessarily know this.  I could honestly believe that they had themselves written the content.

I do believe that intellectual property rights should be protected.  However, I also believe that due process should be allowed to run its course and that law enforcement doesn’t rush to judgment simply because a rights holder says that a site violates intellectual property laws.  There should be a balance between intellectual property rights and the first amendment.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 08:38:06

    I think our views are similar. While I think our copyright laws are seriously broken (big media has thrown too much money at this issue, twisting copyright from its initial intent), I do believe that content creators should be able to get paid for their work. At the same time, SOPA and PIPA aren’t the way to do it. The due process issues bug me the most (well, except for the DNS ussies, but it seems like that was one of the first things proponents retreated from, prior to the mass retreat yesterday).

    For an example of how big media companies can abuse their power:



  2. Squeaky
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 08:54:56

    Agree Kos. SOPA and PIPA are not the solution. The intent may be OK but the actual methods that they want to employ are inappropriate. They need to come up with something better or stick with status quo of picking up the pieces after the fact.


  3. kosmo
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 10:10:12

    I certainly believe content creators should be paid for their work – especially since I am a content creator,

    But life plus 70 years for a copyright? That means that an heir of mine who is a newborn baby when I die could be getting royalty checks when they are 70 years old.

    I’m currently involved in a rights dispute. The rights holder in question does indeed have some of the rights they claim (absurdly broad trademark), but they’ve twisted the arm of a third party to grant them liberties that they aren’t legally entitled to.

    I wonder how many citizens actually support SOPA. I’ve seen Squeaky, Zarberg, and Crunchy all voice their opposition (Squirrel may also be opposed; I simply haven’t seen him register an opinion).Squeaky and Crunchy have very little in common with Zarberg, but find common ground on this issue.


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