While reading an article about Cathy Rigby in The New Yorker to my dad —in disbelief that the 59-year-old is still playing Peter Pan, as fiercely as ever—he had a question not answered in the text.
“When was Cathy Rigby in the Olympics?” he asked, immediately posing the question to a site he knew would provide the fastest answer.
Unfortunately, Wikipedia wasn’t catering to our miscellaneous inquiries today.
Wikipedia is dark today in an effort to enlighten internet users of two contentious anti-piracy bills.
I have been scouring the web for details on this pair of apparently protest-worthy proposed legislations with little success — which is perhaps just as telling.
The likes of Google, Mozilla, Reddit, Wired and many other sites have joined Wikipedia in this coordinated act of self-censorship to jolt users into awareness and, perhaps, scare them into getting a taste of a world where information is on lockdown.
According to CNN, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) seek to crackdown on copyright infringement, tangentially targeting foreign violators by holding domestic content providers liable for users’ illegal actions with said overseas sites. Though most opponents of SOPA and PIPA agree that protecting intellectual property is important, the ambiguous language of SOPA has sites worried that the fear of “facilitating” infringement may force sites to preemptively censure themselves, and in YouTube’s case, chop its content considerably.
The prospect of federal intervention is understandably daunting. Whether you are working on a term paper, or suddenly NEED to know what the voice of Belle from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” looks like, the internet likely has an instant answer. For better or worse, our daily functions hinge on information technology, and we are accustomed to instant gratification. The fact that the limits of SOPA and PIPA aren’t clearly defined is all the more cause for anxiety.
I’m particularly torn when it comes to protecting intellectual property. I believe that there is a very fine line between free dissemination of information and stealing a person’s work. Providing free downloads/content has become a trend with musicians, artists, writers and the like, allowing fans and hopefully, new fans, to find and enjoy their work. I think this is a great way for budding artists to reach audiences—large or small— but I can also see why many are hesitant to offer up the fruits of their labor with a simple click, a copy-and-paste, etc. Newspapers have worked out—some more effectively than others— ways to compromise between making valuable information accessible to the public, and, you know, surviving as businesses (let’s continue to cross our fingers, please).
The fact is, the web is both a wonderful and dangerous thing, and it’s important to know how best to present yourself and/or your content. Collectively, we’re still navigating cyberspace, and inter-web protocol is continually evolving. I definitely think that better copyright protections need to be put into place, but I think SOPA and PIPA will create more problems than solutions.
This said, I think this Forbes article presents an interesting argument: No matter what Congress ultimately decides in regards to SOPA, technology will always be several leaps ahead. The article does sort of mitigate the ambiguity of the bill and their potential impact, but it does sort of lessen the fatalistic blow of Wikipedia’s current homepage.
Let’s just hope beloved Wikipedia and YouTube are safe.
And in case you were wondering:
According to biography.com, Cathy Rigby was the first American woman to receive a medal in the World Gymnastics competition in 1968. She was only 15 years old.