On January 18, 2012, the tech community in Silicon Valley gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall to protest the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) bills being considered by Congress and the House of Representatives. PIPA was approved by a senate committee and is now pending before the whole senate, and SOPA is in the House. The purpose of the bills is to prevent foreign-based websites from selling copyrighted materials, and if passed the federal government would have the authority to close U.S. based websites that contain pirated content. While preventing piracy is an important concern for the government to tackle, it is vital for any legislation under consideration to be specific to avoid resulting in implementation of censorship.
The rally in San Francisco was just one of many held throughout the country. Additionally, several large mainstream websites, such as Google and Wikipedia, visibly lent their support to the cause on their homepages as well. In total, two million websites pledged to participate in the strike. It was thrilling to see so many people willing take the time out of their work day to perform their civic duty and urge their representatives to take action on this issue.
The results of the strike can be considered effective: at least nineteen senators went on to announce they no longer supported it the next day. Over two million emails were sent to public officials to oppose the proposed. In total, 205 members of Congress are now leaning against SOPA and PIPA. It has been stated that the strike was the largest internet protest in history. Although the votes on the bills have been delayed, it is clear that the issues facing copyright law and illegal piracy remain pertinent.
Liz Bugarin is a PAABA intern and a tech savvy, community minded Peninsula native who will apply to law school in the upcoming year.