There are more than 7000 websites, including Wikipedia, that went offline today as part of a protest against a bill up for congressional vote called SOPA. Several others darkened content as part of the protest (take a look at the front pages of Google and Wordpress.com). SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is a nice-sounding name (who doesn't hate copyright theft?), except that the bill goes well-beyond that.
Mashable has a great article on it and here's a link to an infographic that explains more about what SOPA is.
Here's a hypothetical situation:
A bride buys her wedding invitations off of Etsy. What she doesn't know is that the Etsy seller knocked off the designs from another invitation designer.
At the wedding, the photographer takes a photo of the invitation.
The wedding gets published on a famous wedding blog. The bride is ecstatic and so are all of the wedding pros who worked with her. The bride shares photos on Facebook, on her own personal blog and in the two wedding forums she's a part of. The photographer and other wedding pros share some of the images on their own company blogs and in their portfolio galleries.
A reader loves the invitation photo and pins it on Pinterest.
Another reader loves it and shares it on Tumblr. Yet another reader includes it in her inspiration board which she then submits to another famous wedding blog as part of a giveaway contest.
The original invitation designer -- the one who the Etsy seller shamelessly copied -- sees her copyrighted design everywhere with someone else getting credit and complains.
Under SOPA, every single website that posted this image could be blocked -- without a trial or court hearing -- regardless of whether or not they knew the invitation violated copyright. Every single one. This means that the wedding professionals' websites and blogs would no longer be able to be accessed. The professional wedding blogs would lose all ad revenue and for most of them, their entire business.
Is this scenario likely to happen? Probably only if a judge decides to make a very public example out of it, like they did with the teens fined millions of dollars for illegally downloading music. Still, under SOPA it could legally happen, whereas right now it can't.
You can send an email to your congressional reps here asking that they vote against both SOPA and a similar bill called PIPA.