Brisbane web designers explain that though we may not live in the U.S. the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) bills still would affect us here in Brisbane. The blackouts conducted by over 7000 websites last Thursday, including Wikipedia, WordPress, Flickr, Reddit, Firefox and Google, in protest to the bills, has led to the U.S. Congress withdrawing the SOPA bill from vote and the U.S. Senate to postpone it’s equivalent bill PIPA indefinitely.
Web Designers have been particularly vocal in the protest as it is a law that will affect web design and web innovation directly. The bills, designed to protect intellectual property, i.e. movies and music, would enable the U.S Government to shut down or censor entire websites. While in theory the motives may be innocent, the ability for the Government to be able to shut down entire websites for some form of copyright infringement, no matter how minor, would have massive repercussions all over the globe. It could also set a precedent in how governments handle internet copyright issues and could lead to hundreds of Australian start-ups being shut down, as well as massive restrictions for web designers and the future of tech and web innovation.
The protest group Fight For The Future has released a short film explaining the issues surrounding the two bills.
The group described the move on their website as follows:
“PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting “creativity”. The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites– they just have to convince a judge that the site is “dedicated to copyright infringement.”
The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that’s for a fix that won’t work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.”
Hundered of protest groups like these have sprung up over the last few weeks raising awareness through popular sites like Reddit, all of which led to the Thursday 18th blackout protest. The protest was the largest online protest in history and with Google alone collecting over 5 million signatures it was hard to ignore. Many web designers blacked out their websites or themed their front page’s web design to direct users to the anti-SOPA &PIPA petition website, where tens of millions of signatures were collected in total. The SOPA & PIPA bills aside, the sheer scale and success of the protests has been fascinating to watch and is no doubt ushering in a new era of activism.