Some websites like Wikipedia, the Oatmeal and reddit are not available today, because of the protest to SOPA bill. We geeks know probably what this bill is all about, but it might be hard to explain to friends, family and colleagues. For these people I put some good explanations of these bills below.
What is the intent of SOPA/PROTECT IP?
The stated intent of the bills is to provide tools for law enforcement and copyright holders to protect their intellectual property rights.
What’s wrong with protecting copyrights?
Nothing! The devil, as they say, is in the details. PROTECT IP and SOPA will cause too much collateral damage, have a high potential for abuse, and won’t even be that effective at stopping the crimes they target. Read alienth’s examination of where these bills fail.
I’m not in the U.S. Why does this affect me?
Many of the sites that you may use (e.g. Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc.) are all affected by this law and will be required to hide offending domains from you.
If a non-U.S. site is blocked in the U.S., the site could suffer financially or even be bankrupted by the loss of U.S. traffic and revenue.
What are the differences between PROTECT IP and SOPA?
At a general level, the bills are very similar. SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” is from the House of Representatives, while the PROTECT IP Act is from the Senate. Either or both bills may pass a vote in their chamber of congress on their way to becoming law. Both must be defeated to end this threat. There have recently been more detailed explanations in an ELI5 thread and alienth’s blog post.
What about ACTA?
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, is a multi-national agreement with similar goals to the U.S.-only PROTECT IP and SOPA bills. It is criticized for many of the same reasons that PROTECT IP and SOPA are, but is also concerning because it has been drafted in secret. ACTA is not the focus of this blackout but please take the time to learn more about ACTA.
I’m not a U.S. citizen. How can I help?
You can still call or e-mail the U.S. representatives (sponsors of the bills would be a good choice). However, you may want to turn your attention more towards ACTA or other over-zealous copyright bills in your country.
Check out the /r/SOPA Community FAQ.