The discussion of the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been causing plenty of noise online. Wikipedia is planning a strike this week – for 24 hours they are going to pull the plug on their site. This will no doubt grab the attention of their estimated 25million daily visitors!
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia has (according to the Guardian):
“been a persistent critic of Sopa, calling it “the worst internet legislation I have ever seen.””
This is one of many voices against the proposed legislation. Last year the BBC reported:
“The founders of Google, Twitter and eBay have signed a strongly worded letter criticising controversial US legislation ahead of a debate in Congress… Sopa was introduced by Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, who said the legislation was designed to “stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites… that profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences”.”
Yesterday however, The Guardian reported that:
“Congress ready to drop Sopa vote after White House says it would not support legislation that threatens openness of internet”
Again from the Guardian:
“…while Sopa now looks severely damaged, Protect IP is still up for a vote on 24 January and there is widespread support among politicians for tighter control of the internet”
Of course there is support for this legislation. Whilst it seems the voices against have been most successful in capturing media headlines, there are also compelling arguments in support of legislation (see video below).
What is clear is that striking a balance between infringement and fair use is very difficult to legislate for…. Fair Use is a concept that we often rely on in our work so it’s worth taking the time to exploring the wider issues.
Final comment from the Guardian:
…So far, the Sopa battle has been largely fought out in the tech, media, and business pages. All that could change Wednesday when Wikipedia goes dark.”
Read the official legal docs
Some background Q&As