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Google, FaceBook, Twitter & Amazon Flexing Their Muscles?

A one-day, coordinated, threatened blackout by the four internet technology giants might give the U.S. government pause before jumping on board the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bandwagon.  Imagine it.  No one could Google anything for an entire day.  No Facebook updates, no tweets, and no shopping.  My palms are getting sweaty just thinking about it.  The dramatic threat is a drastic measure that is called for, according to these and other companies concerned about the possibility of killing the  internet as we know it.

Entertainment companies, including the motion picture and music recording industries, are rightly concerned about the epidemic piracy that is going on internationally through peer-to-peer file sharing software like BitTorrent, as well as overseas websites dedicated to sharing illegal contraband.  Markham Erickson, who is the executive director of NetCoalition, a trade association for companies like Google, Yahoo and Twitter, said recently to FoxNews.com “A number of companies have had discussions about that.  Mozilla had a blackout day, and Wickipedia has talked about something similar.  This type of thing doesn’t happen because companies typically don’t want to put their users in that position.”

“When the home pages of Google.com, Amazon.com, Facebook.com and their internet allies simultaneously turn black with anti-censorship warnings that ask users to contact politicians about a vote in the U.S. Congress the next day on SOPA, you’ll know they’re finally serious,” said Declan McCullagh, a CBS writer.

While protecting an industry from theft of their content seems to be an admirable thing for lawmakers to accomplish, not to mention the money that is being funneled out of the U.S. economy every time piracy takes place, it’s important to understand that SOPA and bills like it fundamentally change the way the internet works.  So the argument goes, it will, in essence, kill the internet because of the fear of government tyranny.  Everyone will be terrified to download or stream anything, for fear of getting slapped with a lawsuit or worse.  It will, it is feared, stop job creation and innovation in it’s tracks.

Not everyone is against SOPA.  Sr. Research Fellow Richard Bennett of the Information Technolog & Innovation Foundation recently wrote in a New York post editorial that “SOPA targets foreign websites that sell counterfeit drugs and stolen copies of Hollywood movies – not such American websites as YouTube or your favorite blog.  Internet criminals selling bogus drugs or pirated movies simply set up shop in China or a distant island republic, knowing that they won’t be harassed by law enforcement regardless of how many U.S. lives or jobs they endanger.”  According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the editor of the New York Times, t is estimated that these rogue websites attract more than 53 billion visits annually, and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.

However, several backers are bowing to pressure.  GoDaddy, which originally backed SOPA, has changed it’s position due to a threatened GoDaddy boycott.  A GoDaddy spokesperson confirmed to CNet.com just yesterday that “we oppose PIPA, as well (the Senate’s bill, also known as Protect IP).

Without a doubt, both sides have some strong arguments, and it stands to reason that something must be done to protect the interests of all parties.

 

 

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