From pro-Internet lobby groups to retail pharmacists to online software vendors, organizations and individuals in Canada are on strike against the Internet today.
The groups are among thousands of website operators protesting upcoming American legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and expressing concern over its counterpart, PIPA, the Protect IP Act.
Both bills will be debated in Congress, and may be amended or merged prior to final passage.
The legislation is designed to protect the interests of U.S. businesses, including music and movie publishers, but also physical goods manufacturers and distributors, and fight counterfeiting, but because of the laws' overly broad language, legitimate websites could be shut-down overnight, critics say.
Canada, too, is facing new rules and regulations for Internet-based activity, as contained in proposed Lawful Access legislation, with critics voicing concerns about its impact on online surveillance, personal privacy and data security.
They say it has similar provisions to SOPA, which is said to give the American government and private corporations the ability to force ISPs to cripple any website that they allege has made use of copyrighted materials. SOPA would also force websites like Google, Wikipedia, or Reddit to block links to content that they suspect may be copyrighted.
According to online rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the U.S. legislation:
"...would grant the government and private parties' unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet's underlying infrastructure. The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to block users' attempts to reach certain websites' URLs... the blacklist bills' provisions would give corporations and other private parties new powers to censor foreign websites with court orders that would cut off payment processors and advertisers."
Not only would SOPA and PIPA create an 'Internet blacklist' and 'break the Internet,' but the legislation would also take away Americans' ability to order safe, affordable prescription medications from Canadian pharmacies.
Hence, CIPA, the Canadian International Pharmacy Association, and its member pharmacies are participating in the January 18 blackout in protest of Congress' proposed anti-piracy legislation
Canadian pro-Internet advocacy group OpenMedia.ca is joining the blackout protest, along with domain registrar and software provider Tucows, Identi, and Internet law expert Michael Geist in so doing.
OpenMedia.ca is also providing an online tool that allows Canadians to join their U.S. counterparts, and millions of people worldwide, in speaking out against controversial censorship bills.
Those foreign websites include ones found in Canada. Michael Geist warns that "Canadian businesses and websites could easily find themselves targeted by SOPA." Canadian Internet users and online innovators have a lot to lose if SOPA is passed. The bill could threaten the open Internet in the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the world.
Tucows says it is joining the protest because, as stated in a message on its site, "[T]he legislation itself is fundamentally corrupt. It is bought and paid for by big media, trying vainly to protect anachronistic business models. This has been demonstrated clearly in all of the hearings and the very conduct of the debate. Listening to how deeply uninformed those being asked to legislate this issue are has been nothing short of scary.
"The Internet is not a corpus, it is not a thing. It is a series of protocols, which are really agreements on how computers will behave when connected to the Internet. Treating the Internet like a thing to be legislated and controlled is as ill conceived as treating "Intellectual Property" like physical property and leads to even greater perversions. If governments squeeze too tightly, the Internet as we know it will simply get up and walk away.
"The proposed SOPA (and equally odious Protect IP Act) legislation is fundamentally flawed in how it works and the damage it is likely to do to the Internet, which has been the greatest platform for innovation the world has ever seen. For that reason we will be joining the blackout organized by our friends at Reddit by blacking out the Tucows Software Download site."
Wikipedia's Communications Director, Jay Walsh, wrote to those outside the United States, encouraging them to "contact your State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the [I]nternet to remain open and free."
For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:
Canadian ISPs to Deliver Customer Information in Hurt Locker Lawsuit
Digital Economy Needs New Copyright Laws: Artist Coalition
Media Security and Cloaking Tools to Combat Digital Piracy
Internet Providers to Stop Slowing Internet Traffic