GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS
What's wrong with SOPA: Here's one example
- By Greg Crowe
- Jan 18, 2012
During its 24 hours of darkness in protest against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), the English language version of Wikipedia greeted visitors with shadowy page opening up with: “Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge.”
As over-dramatic as that statement sounds, the bills as they were written would make it extremely difficult for a site like Wikipedia to stay up and running.
In order to avoid being liable for copyright infringement or intellectual property theft under SOPA, Wikipedians would have to check every single external link on their site to make sure that site isn’t hosting infringing material. If they did not maintain this vigilance, then according to the provisions of the bill, the site could be blocked or traffic could be routed away from it.
That is a lot of links to be constantly checking. New pages would probably never get added because they probably couldn’t spare the time to check their content and links in between checking the links of pages that are already up.
Sure, the chances of being shut down because of one link in a vast site such as Wikipedia are lower than an average citizen being caught cheating on his taxes a tiny bit. But, according to the bill, all it would take is one complaint to make it happen.
Wikipedia has been accumulating the world’s largest encyclopedia for about a decade now. It has always seemed to me to be a shining example of what the Internet could make when it set its mind to it, and it would be a shame if we had to say goodbye to it.
The protests have been heard, and Congress is backing away from the bills — in particular, the blocking and redirecting provisions. That is fortunate. The goal of combating online piracy is worthy, but the heavy-handed provisions in these bills could have been the death knell for Wikipedia and thousands of other valuable sites.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.