Two bills on the hill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), aim to put an end to online piracy through tighter legislation. Many are concerned about the potential for online censorship and violations of the First Amendment if the bill becomes law.
The bill, "authorizes the Attorney General (AG) to seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy to require the owner... to cease and desist further activities constituting specified intellectual property offenses under the federal criminal code."
In the most simplest terms, if SOPA is passed, websites would become fully liable for all content that appears on the site. This would include user comments that may quote a copyrighted movie or a link to copyrighted material on another site, which is Wikipedia's biggest concern.
The New York Times reports that opponents of the bill fear it, â??would stifle innovation, enable censorship and tamper with the livelihood of businesses on the Internet.â??
If you are surfing the web today, you may find a number of your favorite sites shutting down or displaying messages in protest of the bills â?? including, most notably, Wikipedia.
Other notable sites participating in the blackout:
Google placed a black bar over its logo.
Reddit plans to go dark for 12 hours.
Wordpress placed blacked bars across a lot of its content.
The Huffington Post blacked out their homepage.
Read the SOPA bill, H.R.3261, here.