The lights are on
Some of the world’s largest websites shut down today to protest two legislative bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).
The bills largely focus on anti-piracy and attacking foreign websites from hosting copyrighted material, but those in opposition claim the bills are too vague and could lead to a slippery slope of internet censorship by the U.S. Congress.
Popular websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit all shut down today for 24 hours in protest. Other major websites like Google remained online, but included a link on its homepage opposing the bills with the iconic Google logo covered in black tape. Google allowed users to sign a petition to Congress, and by this afternoon it has already generated 4.5 million signatures.
"The most effective way to shut down pirate websites is through targeted legislation that cuts off their funding," Google said. "There’s no need to make American social networks, blogs and search engines censor the Internet or undermine the existing laws that have enabled the Web to thrive, creating millions of U.S. jobs."
Several gaming companies, such as Epic Games, Bungie, and Mojang have all opposed the current form of the bills, too.
"Bungie is opposed to any legislation that curtails free speech, stifles
innovation, and prevents the open sharing of information on the
Internet," the company wrote on its website. "SOPA fits that bill. If it
passes, it will hurt our community, the gaming community at large, and
it could very well cripple the kind of games we love to create and play."
Game Informer made its stance known earlier today.
The protests appear to be working so far. Since the protests began this morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a co-sponsor of PIPA, released a statement saying he was withdrawing his support for the bill.
"Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we've heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet," he wrote on his official Facebook page.
"Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.
He continued: "Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet."
Other co-sponsors have come forward to withdraw their support for PIPA, including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. John Boozman (R-Ar.), and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.).
"After listening to the concerns on both sides of the debate over the Protect IP Act, it is simply not ready for prime time and both sides must continue working together to find a better path forward," Hatch said on his Facebook page.
The Senate will begin voting next week on January 24.