The Blackout

January 18, 2012: was it bigger than the blackout that rocked much of the east coast in 2003? While lights didn’t suddenly go out across homes, many websites went dark in protest of SOPA, the anti-piracy bill that has been swirling around Congress.

The blackout was a coordinated effort by some websites, including Wikipedia, asking consumers of the internet to take some sort of action  – writing their Congress person, signing a petition – to demonstrate your opposition to a bill.

An article posted to the LA Times yesterday afternoon stated that nearly 49,000 people had “liked” the Against the Online Piracy Act page on Facebook, and Google reported that nearly 3 million Americans had signed one petition or another demonstrating their opposition to the legislation.

Information was swirling about SOPA yesterday, and with every person that opposed the Act, there was another opinion associated with it. This morning, I was happy to see that the Public Relations Society of America had taken a stand against it. As a member of PRSA and the president-elect of the Greater Cleveland Chapter, I tend to look to the organization for further insight about timely issues directly impacting the industry in which I work.

Here is PRSA’s statement:

We respect the protection of a company’s or individual’s intellectual property rights, while also firmly believing in the freedom of expression and the continuation of an open and unrestricted Internet. As such, we oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). It is the opinion of PRSA that SOPA and PIPA, as currently written, overreach, threatening the innovation and development of the Internet.
Consumers should have access to legitimate content. Copyright owners should have practical means of protecting their works that also consider and serve the public interest. And technology companies should be free from undue legal or regulatory burdens.
We take today’s news that members of Congress wish to revise both bills as a hopeful sign of a renewed willingness to compromise in a way that balances the competing interests of all parties.

It is our hope that lawmakers will not impede the growth of the Internet or the public’s access to online content by passing laws that aim to censor and unnecessarily target content providers and search engines in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

I agree with PRSA in that I am hopeful that congress will revisit these bill and see the damage they will cause. What are your thoughts? Do you think Congress will listen to the outcry?


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