Phew. Students, political researchers and journalists in the UK and USA can breathe a sigh of relief today as their central resource Wikipedia comes back on line after a 24-hour shut down in protest at the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) currently being considered by the USA legislature. No doubt there were a number of crises in schools and colleges throughout the land as students found they couldn't do their homework. Let's hope teachers and tutors were understanding.
Now that Wikipedia is back you can find out what SOPA is all about and why Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Facebook and many more are against it. See also The Guardian for a two-minute explanatory video. But the fact that Rupert Murdoch got excited about it tells you all you need to know - he and his ilk want to control the internet and make loadsamoney from it - see a report at Forbes.
So any road up though but, this legislation seeks to stop so-called 'internet piracy' but the problem with it is that it is a tad draconian in its reach and in terms of penalties. Most importantly for a democracy, it goes against the concept of what Americans call 'due process' i.e. innocent until proved guilty etc. The legislation would allow a copyright holder to make an allegation and would require the internet provider to shut your website down without giving you a chance either to remove the content or to challenge the allegation. And offenders could get sent to prison for five years, which seems a bit harsh. Domain names would be erased, and innovation would be stifled. It's a badly written bit of legislation which won't in any case stop the determined pirates and the Senators and Congressmen need to think again and draft something a bit more sensible. There's worse crimes, and bigger problems, than breach of copyright that Government should be sorting out and it's not as if copyright holders don't already have legal remedies available to them.
Meanwhile, it's interesting how Murdoch and his ilk are all in favour of free markets until it means they might be losing out as a result. And as for the record companies and film corporations, you wouldn't meet a bigger bunch of shysters, thieves and double-crossers outside the banking industry.