The threat of passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has led sites across the internet — including some LGBT — to go dark today in protest of the legislation backed by the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, as well as dozens of companies from Wal-Mart to CBS.
SOPA and its Senate counterpart the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) seek to curb online piracy by requiring internet service providers to block access to domains of foreign sites that are suspected of offering users access to pirated content. This means that sites like Pirate Bay — which allow users to share access to pirated movies and music — could be blocked if they are found to have copyright violations. However, the law could also put in jeopardy sites like YouTube, where budding artists like Justin Bieber have turned to post cover versions of copyrighted songs in hopes of making it big, as well as users who post T.V. and movie clips in fan videos, or users who use popular music as the background to home videos, such as wedding videos. YouTube uses a link shortener ‘youtu.be’ which is registered in Belgium, putting YouTube in jeopardy of having violated the law for not removing videos like this:
The law in its current form states sites would have five days to pull down links to the content before a judge can order them darkened, which could cause massive problems for many sites in the U.S.
Also in jeopardy would be social sites where users often post links and video to their news feed that could potentially violate the law. Under SOPA and PIPA, Facebook and Twitter could be held liable for such violations, and a judge could order them darkened in whole or in part, though proponents of the law say that is not likely to happen. The same could happen to blogs and the websites of news organizations whose articles link to relevant material found elsewhere on the internet, which could potentially include blacklisted sites.
Finally, search engines like Google and Bing are extremely vulnerable to some of the terms of SOPA and PIPA, which compels the sites to monitor links for possible gateways to pirated material. Paypal and eBay would also be left open to possible claims through SOPA and PIPA if they allow transactions to foreign sites which may feature pirated content.
In an effort to bring attention to the potential effects of enforcing SOPA and PIPA, web news-sharing site Reddit, and internet encyclopedia Wikipedia have gone offline today to highlight what could be a possible future for sites like these if SOPA and PIPA are passed and enforced to their fullest extent. While most legal experts don’t expect Google of Facebook to be shut down under SOPA and PIPA, critics claim the broad language and lack of recourse options for sites levied with quarantine orders make SOPA a potential problem for many domestic sites on the internet that provide access to content beyond their own domain.
In an effort to stand in solidarity with Reddit and Wikipedia, LGBT operated sites like Bilerico.com, Rawstory.com, Talk About Equality, The New Civil Rights Movement, and LGBTPOV.com have gone dark today. In addition, Google has redesigned its homepage to censor its logo, and offer options to contact lawmakers.
LGBT news site Towleroad.com placed a splash page up encouraging visitors to contact their lawmakers about SOPA.
“New bills in the US Congress and Senate are attempting to give the US government the ability to censor and shut down websites without due process,” the splash page reads. “It’s crucial we speak up to stop these bills from becoming law.”
Though users can still view the site’s content, all visitors to the site will be greeted with the unique splash page today, reminding fans that resources like Towleroad would be in danger of going dark if claims under SOPA are brought against the site.