Tomorrow this blog will be blacked out for 12 hours starting at 1400 CET (1300 UTC or 8 AM EST).
With this initiative Refining Linux is following the protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) proposed by US legislators and the media industry. Many huge Internet companies and organizations such as Reddit and Wikipedia participate in these protests. Also companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and of course non-profit organizations such as Mozilla and many smaller groups support the protests against SOPA and PIPA.
Why is this so important?
These two bills have the goal to give law enforcement agencies more power to fight against “rogue websites” and copyright infringements in a way that highly endangers free speech and open communication infrastructure. As supporters of open source initiatives and democratic processes we have to intervene and prevent these bills from becoming applicable law.
Fortunately at least the DNS filtering parts of both these bills have been suspended for now due to massive protest from all over the country and around the world, but many evenly dangerous parts persists and the idea behind the whole proposed law isn't dead at all. In fact, it is very much alive and similar attempts are being made behind closed doors in other countries as well. One example is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which is currently negotiated by many countries in the European Union.
Therefore this is not just a matter of US citizens, it is a matter of people around the world.
Why are so many big companies against SOPA and PIPA?
The simple question is: because the Internet is their business. Other than the entertainment industry, which mainly supports SOPA, these companies depend on the Internet. Should these bills become law, they could be held responsible for any third party content appearing on their websites. That means in an extreme case a single search result pointing to an illegal website could be reason enough to sanction Google. The same applies to any other website with user contributed content such as Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, any online community, even your private web forum. All posts made to these website had to be checked and approved manually before they appear publicly. That is impossible to do and a massive restraint of free speech and open communication.
The same applies to ACTA and any similar proposed agreement that abuses legal forces to destroy the freedom of people in the name of fighting online delicts.
You should participate as well
Refining Linux protests for a free Internet and so should you. As Sue Gardener wrote in the Wikimedia's announcement to black out Wikipedia (which I linked above):
“The reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we're seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy, and regulate the Internet in other ways, that hurt online freedoms. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone.”
This is absolutely true. Even if you're not a US citizen (like me) this affects you. Bills like SOPA, PIPA or ACTA must not pass legislation. They destroy open communication around the world and change the Internet in a way we really don't want it to be.
Update 01/19/2012 0100 UTC:
Refining Linux is back. Thanks to all who showed their support.