Internet bills SOPA, PIPA behind blackout of Wikipedia, Reddit and other popular websites

TAMPA - The self-imposed blackout of Wikipedia , Reddit and other websites on Wednesday was widely publicized in advance of the event.

Here is a gallery showing screen shots of blacked-out sites: http://tinyurl.com/7x5p3hr

But what's behind the high-profile protest?

Put simply: SOPA and PIPA.

The US House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) are a pair of highly contentious anti-piracy laws designed to hold Internet content providers accountable for copyrighted material that is illegally hosted, or linked to, on websites.

Both bills differ slightly and both are still under revision.  But the basic intent is the same.

A major proponent of SOPA and PIPA is the entertainment industry, which claims it has lost billions in pirated content.

Within SOPA and PIPA is a particular focus on international sites that currently allow copyrighted material to be accessed through ' torrents ' and other means.

Through SOPA and PIPA, the U.S. government could force American advertisers to stop doing business with rogue sites.  Search engines would  no longer be allowed to link to the blocked sites.  American users trying to access the foreign sites would not be able to do so.

Wikipedia and others are fighting back hard, saying implementation of SOPA and PIPA could lead to censorship, hamper innovation, stifle creativity and completely change the Internet as we now know it.

Additionally, there is deep concern that sites that are not dedicated to the illegal distribution of pirated intellectual property could be targeted and taken down.

One organization leading the charge against SOPA and PIPA is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Visit the website here: https://www.eff.org/

A major proponent of the two bills is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Read more here: http://riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy_online_the_law

For House SOPA bill draft: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s968rs/pdf/BILLS-112s968rs.pdf

To read the Senate's PIPA bill draft: http://leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/BillText-PROTECTIPAct.pdf

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