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Free Internet – U.S. Congress against?

Wikipedia website closed in anti-SOPA & anti-PIPA protest

Today many websites were temporarily closed today in protest of online anti-piracy laws that U.S. Congress may vote in favour of, Wikipedia being probably the most noticable protester. That said, only English edition of Wikipedia seems to be blacked out. Apart from some websites closing for 24 hours, there are also other (like Google) giving their support to the cause.

You could ask: why they are protesting against online anti-piracy laws? Is not piracy bad for everyone? SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are believed to not only hunt piracy, but also hurt the Internet, so businesses and individuals, by allowing to take down every website where there is a suspition of copyright infingement, without court order etc. Mind you, this applies to USA, although there has been initially idea to also block websites outside of U.S. for USA citizens – this was abandonded recently though. You can also imagine how disastrous this all could be.

While I am all for anti-infingement laws, as it also affects badly web design industry, you cannot simply close or ban whatever you want just because there is a risk that some of the content of the website is thought to be infringing someone’s copyright. First of all, this needs to be proven and even if it is, it is not always harmful enough to take such strict actions. How many times I have seen someone using a photo on their website that was not licensed to them not even knowing that they should get a lincence first? Not that this is good, but why cut off a hand for stealing a box of matches, when a simple warning would suffice? SOPA and PIPA want to not only cut of your hand, but your head too, just to save courts some time.

And what do you think? Is it something you would support?