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Sites offer excuses, excuses as SOPA blackout looms

UPDATE: InternetNZ says it's going dark.

Wed, 18 Jan 2012

UPDATE: This just in from InternetNZ boss Vikram Kumar. Earlier today, the organisation was undecided on if it would go dark:

InternetNZ is a small organisation. Our website development and hosting are outsourced. So are decision to blackout our website in support of the global Stop SOPA movement is dependent upon external

We're very pleased that our supplier, with the aid of the Drupal open source community, have been able to respond very quickly to our request. They have confirmed that our website is now ready to
participate in the global Web blackout,

Accordingly, InternetNZ's website will be blacked out from 2 am to 2 pm NZ time on 19 January, corresponding to 8 am to 8 pm New York time on 18 January.

The message on the blackout page will express our protest against SOPA and SOPA-like laws.

I'm less pleased to report that Tuanz chief executive Paul Brislen has now admited he did not black out his avatar, per se, but rather substituted his mugshot with a photo of his fridge taken in the early hours of the morning. Still, NBR appreciates the sentiment.

Through the looking glass
Meanwhile, the Motion Picture Associiation of America (MPAA) has issued a priceless press release from its CEO, former Senator Christopher Dodd, which includes the immortal line:

A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.  

Senator Dodd's full rant is on the MPAA website here. (For balance, check out the Obama White House's post, which says SOPA would "encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.")

A number of high-profile websites are planning to blackout their home pages on Wednesday US time (better known as Thursday in NZ) in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If passed, the legislation would let US content rights holders target websites, including those in NZ and elsewhere offshore, that they think are guilty of piracy or counterfeiting - and order key internet services like domain names, search links ad services and payment services blocked without due process.

Supporters of the protest include the donation-funded Wikipedia – the online encyclopaedia that claims 460 million monthly visitors and which first popularised the SOPA blackout (and, to be cynical, also bagged all the first-mover publicity).

The popular BoingBoing, which aggregates quirky stories, is also on board, as is the right-on

Others are not quite so keen.

I’ve been asked on Twitter if NBR will support the blackout. This newspaper does, of course, oppose heavy-handed, liberty-infringing legislation in all its forms.

Yet I’m also sure our publisher would box my ears if I even suggested we blackout NBR’s home page.

In the hyper-active, hyper-competitive online world, few websites will want to go dark for a day – in the media, or beyond.

Google – a vocal SOPA opponent, drawing the wrath of Twitter newbie Rupert Murdoch, said this morning it would not blackout its home page, but rather promote a link to an item detailing its reasons for opposing the legislation. The search giant regards SOPA as a government attempt to censor the internet.

Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo offered an undiplomatic public tweet that "Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish."

(Mr Costolo has spent the past few hours furiously spinning his original comment.)

Closer to home Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said he sees SOPA as an economic and cultural threat.

Yet the Tuanz boss also had to concede that a short-notice blackout also posed logistical complications – so it’s likely to be business-as-usual on tomorrow.

But Mr Brislen has kicked-off a lower-tech alternative, blacking out his Twitter avatar (a protest first popularised by the Creative Freedom Foundation with its anti S.92 campaign).

Green MP Gareth Hughes told NBR his party will blackout its website today, but will only for an hour (between 3pm and 4pm, if you're keen to look into the darkness).

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar – an eloquent opponent of SOPA – said his organisation was still undecided on whether to support the blackout.

Yesterday, Mr Kumar told NBR that although SOPA has been shelved by the House of Representatives, for an unspecified amount of time, similar legislation is still alive in the Senate.

The InternetNZ boss saw it as inevitable that a similar bill to SOPA would emerge at some point in Congress, meaning it was important to keep up the campaign.

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Sites offer excuses, excuses as SOPA blackout looms