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Students will find popular sites such as Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit and Boing Boing unavailable today, replaced by information on the SOPA and PIPA legislation currently on hold in Congress. The two acts aim to fight online piracy sites such as Bittorrent and The Pirate Bay.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) aim to make the host site responsible for all user submissions. For instance, if someone were to post a video of copyrighted material on their Facebook page, Facebook itself could potentially be held accountable for the user’s copyright infringement.
Currently, there is a Safe Harbor Rule in effect. This frees websites such as Wikipedia and YouTube that are dependent on user submissions from the responsibility of policing everything that is posted on their sites. If material is found to be violating copyright laws, the material is simply removed from the site.
Even though SOPA and PIPA were created to target offshore piracy sites, which are free from the U.S. justice system, the language of the acts puts a high amount of responsibility on legitimate sites.
For this reason, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Reddit and Boing Boing will go dark today. Other major websites have vocally opposed the acts, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and eBay, however they will remain operational during the blackout.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told Reuters.com that English Wikipedia generates 25 million visitors a day worldwide, according to comScore data.
This means that today 25 million individuals, when attempting to visit Wikipedia, will find information on SOPA and PIPA instead. For everyone accessing the website from the United States, directions will be provided on how to contact their local Congressmen and voice their opinion on the legislation.
The CU Independent explored student opinions on the effectiveness of the website blackouts and their thoughts on SOPA and PIPA.
(CU Independent/Rose Heaphy)