Tried Wikipedia today?
If you did. . . you got a message explaining that the site is blacked out. Globally. To protest SOPA.
In case you haven't been paying attention, SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act, a proposed bill aiming to crack down on copyright infringement by restricting access to sites that host pirated content. (Read a great explanation about SOPA here.)
The main targets of SOPA are sites like The Pirate Bay -- an overseas site that offers illegal downloads of movies and other digital content. "Hollywood" (and other industries driven by copyrighted material) are in favor of online copyright protection. The bill, however, goes a bit further than just protecting copyright. SOPA (in some versions) would actually allow for a level of censorship (similar to that used in China). (Read a great explanation of the tech industry's concerns in this interview with Jimmy Wales - co-founder of Wikipedia - here.)
So. Why am I writing about this? I mean, I keep politics out of my blog (unless you read between the lines, of course. And then . . . well, it's there). I've been following SOPA from the beginning, just not blogging about it. (It's hard not to follow along. My daughter, a true tech nerd, has been posting and blogging about SOPA for several months. She's a bit of a zealot.) But last night, as we drove home from the gym, Tom and I were listening to Marketplace on NPR . . . and two stories, back-to-back, got me thinking. A lot.
First, there was a little story about Jerry Wang stepping down from Yahoo. (Jerry Wang is one of the co-founders of Yahoo.) One of the the things the reporters talked about . . . was that Yahoo hadn't "changed with the time"; that it was a "paradigm company of another era in computing." Okay. True. But. . . we're talking about a company that was started in 1995. A 17-year-old company. Begun 3 years AFTER my son was born. And it failed . . . because it couldn't "change with the time."
It's stunning how quickly things change in this . . . "time."
Then, they shifted into a story about Wikipedia blacking out tomorrow. And SOPA. And they led with this quote from North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt -- who happens to be be one of the sponsors of SOPA. Congressman Watt has this to say about . . . technology: "Chairman, I'm a pretty old-fashioned guy who still hasn't figured out how or even whether I want to use all the fancy technological advances that are out there." Yes. This is the guy sponsoring SOPA. He hasn't decided if he wants to use the "fancy technological advances" quite yet.
Do we think he can even begin to understand the complexity of the situation?
So that is why I'm blogging about SOPA today.
Learn about it. Understand what is happening. Things are changing quickly in this "time." And whether we use it all or not, we need to pay attention.