What is SOPA? Wikipedia switched off!

Wikipedia and Reddit join SOPA blackout protest.

SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act which aims to limit the freedom of websites in the United States. Of course the Internet is truly global and websites tend to be controlled by their local laws. However there is a growing movement within the corporate world for greater control of websites and their content. It’s about stopping online piracy.

Wikipedia and Reddit are among a number of high profile websites that will be switched off tomorrow (Wednesday 18th January 2012). Of course the legitimate targets of the bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives in October 2011, were websites that pirate content such as movies and music. The copyright holders want to put a stop to illegal downloading. What could happen if SOPA becomes law?

  • Websites could be shut down.
  • Search engines will block rogue sites.
  • Internet companies could be held liable for their users’ content e.g. Facebook, Twitter.

The biggest problem is identifying who owns what, and which law applies in different countries. Is this the end of an empowered, free Internet?