As you’ve probably noticed, some of your favorite sites are offline today, as a protest and means of raising consciousness about the Internet-crippling dangers of the SOPA bill currently kicking around the US Congress. While most people are fine with the stated purpose of “stopping piracy,” the bill is poorly-written and is much too vague and broad in its industry-friendly terms, and would allow major media companies to very widely apply copyright law to cripple the operation of websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Reddit, and countless others. Including this one.

    Should SOPA go into effect, Blizzard’s lawyers could effective end the operations of any fansite, should they wish to. The posting of all Blizzard’s copyrighted images, all fan art (HolyKnight has put together a big list of useful links on his Deviant Art page.), all fan wallpapers, fan fiction, and so on, could be ruled as copyright infringements, and under the draconian anti-fair use provisions of the law, website operators would be required to remove all such material, as well as constantly scanning gallery uploads, video uploads, user blogs, forum comments, and more, to make sure no one tried to post any such material. Worst of all, sites that were deemed repeat offenders could be entirely blocked for anyone in the US, which would greatly inconvenience the surfing of US users, as well as bankrupt most of those sites, due to the loss of the largest user block.

    Much more info can be found in the excellent FAQ on Wikipedia. A short quote:

    SOPA and PIPA represent two bills in the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate respectively. SOPA is short for the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” and PIPA is an acronym for the “Protect IP Act.” (“IP” stands for “intellectual property.”) In short, these bills are efforts to stop copyright infringement committed by foreign web sites, but, in our opinion, they do so in a way that actually infringes free expression while harming the Internet. Detailed information about these bills can be found in the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act articles on Wikipedia, which are available during the blackout. GovTrack lets you follow both bills through the legislative process: SOPA on this page, and PIPA on this one. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for the public interest in the digital realm, has summarized why these bills are simply unacceptable in a world that values an open, secure, and free Internet.

    Like all most multinational media conglomerates, Activision/Blizzard have helped to fund {they did not, though many others such as EA did), though Blizzard PR would appreciate if you didn’t bring that up. (Besides that Bashiok remark, numerous threads on SOPA have been locked or deleted on Battle.net).

    Refer to the Wikipedia FAQ for the best ways to get involved and help stop this Internet censorship from becoming a reality.

    Update: Another fan tried to start discussion on what SOPA might mean for Diablo III, and got shut down by Bashiok. If you’d like uncensored discussion on this, check the comments to this post, or hit up this forum thread.

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