Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Web Goes Dark Thanks to SOPA

SOPA Wikipedia

Wikipedia and O’Reilly Media are just two of the websites that went dark today in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation in the United States. The US already has anti-piracy legislation and this new bill goes too far. As an author, I understand how terrible it feels to have your work stolen. My first Halo book was actually hand scanned then posted online and many of my other books have also been pirated in one way or another. I also have an interesting perspective on this issue because I was also wrongly accused of violating a legal agreement by writing one of my books—something I put to rest when I hired a lawyer and then went on to write two more books on the subject (one for O’Reilly Media BTW). The publisher in that case handled the issue extremely poorly and it’s precisely the sort of thing that would enable SOPA to shut down an innocent website. Copyright infringement is awful, but this bill simply isn’t the right way to deal with the issue.

What’s in this bill? Here’s some text from the summary: “This bill would establish a system for taking down websites that the Justice Department determines to be dedicated to copyright infringment [sic]. The DoJ or the copyright owner would be able to commence a legal action against any site they deem to have "only limited purpose or use other than infringement," and the DoJ would be allowed to demand that search engines, social networking sites and domain name services block access to the targeted site.”

From the Washington Post: “Why are tech start-ups so vehemently opposed? These companies have argued that the bills are tantamount to Internet censorship. Rather than receiving a notification for copyright violations, sites now face immediate action — up to and including being taken down before they have a chance to respond”

If you would like a quick visual explanation of this issue, visit

SOPA Oreilly

From today’s O’Reilly message…

Today, we’re going dark to show the world that O’Reilly Media does not support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives or the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.

These legislative attacks are not motivated by clear thinking about the future of the Internet or the global economy, but instead seek to protect entrenched companies with outdated business models. Rather than adapting and competing with new and better services, these organizations are asking Congress for cover.

Any forward-looking country must encourage its emerging industries, not protect its laggards. Yet, in a time when the American economy needs to catalyze domestic innovation to succeed in a hyper-competitive global marketplace, members of the United States Congress have advanced legislation that could damage the industries of the future.

Here’s what you can do:

1) Learn if your U.S. Representative or Senators support SOPA or PROTECT IP through

2) Use the tools at, and POPVOX to tell Congress where you stand.

3) Participate in Better Activism Day, a free livestream of experts discussing ways to "improve your power in Washington from people who’ve been successful at moving it."

4) Call or meet with your representatives in Congress. The single most effective action any concerned citizen who wants to talk to Congress can take is to see your Senator or Representative in person. Failing that, call them. Write them a letter. Make sure your voice is heard.

– Tim O’Reilly, CEO and Founder of O’Reilly Media