Online protests mobilized by Google, Wikipedia, and many other websites yesterday have at least slowed the progress of two controversial antipiracy bills, with more than 30 senators quickly dropping support for them.
Entire sites, logos, and website backgrounds were “blacked out” in protest by opponents of the near-identical Stop Online Piracy Act in Congress and the Protect I.P. bill in the Senate. Most participating sites also posted lengthy criticism of the bills.
Legislators who went public with their opposition to the bills in response to the protests included several who had either cosponsored or helped write them. But the bills still have support, and they are likely to be amended rather than dropped altogether.
With all the hullabaloo, it was easy to lose sight of what the bills would actually do. The most common objection is that they propose complex and potentially problematic workarounds in an attempt to stop the piracy that new technology makes possible.
The bills would make it possible for U.S. courts to order companies to block access to sites that are accused of serving up pirated movies, music, or TV shows, or to redirect traffic somewhere else. Frustrated by the ease with which people can download this stuff, especially through sites hosted outside the United States, content companies have pushed for a technical solution that would at least block access from within the country. In truth, the only solution is to forge some sort of legal agreement with the countries in which infringement occurs, but this is hardly a likely prospect.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what the bills would do, you can read them for yourselves here: