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Google, Amazon And Others May Go Dark Over SOPA

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain's startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

Several big name IT companies are considering overt protests against the proposed US Stop Online Piracy Act

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Wikipedia and their Internet allies are threatening a co-ordinated protest against the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

The so-called NetCoalition companies are rumoured to be planning a day of protest by blacking out their sites and posting anti-censorship warnings. If the action goes ahead, visitors to the sites will be asked to contact politicians about their feelings.

Serious discussions

NetCoalition executive director and general counsel Markham Erickson told Cnet, “There have been some serious discussions about that. It has never happened before.”

The US government’s adoption process for SOPA stalled temporarily when the House Judiciary Committee for the Senate decided that a controversial provision that would allow the US Attorney General to order changes to the core Internet infrastructure to stop copyright infringement requires further investigation.

This followed a report from Republican congressman Dan Lungren, who heads the Homeland Security subcommittee on cybersecurity, said SOPA would undercut national security. His concerns were supported by the US Department of Energy declaring that the bill would “negatively impact US and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality“.

These global concerns were picked up by the European Parliament which passed a resolution underlining “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names”.

Despite this opposition, it looks likely that SOPA, which is heavily backed by the Hollywood studios and the recording industry, will be passed when a date is set for voting.

This would probably be the trigger for NetCoalition’s protest. If the trade association decides to adopt the Internet blacking policy, the actual form it would take would have to be planned carefully. Many of the members rely on advertising for funding and they would not want to jeopardise their revenue streams. Neither would they wish to inconvenience their users.

What is likely is that the home pages for the organisations will be replaced by a protest screen before users are passed through to the normal service.

The NetColition membership comprises Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, IAC, Bloomberg LP, Expedia, and Wikipedia, with support from AOL, Etsy, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Mozilla, OpenDNS, Twitter, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Zynga Game Network.