If you are reading this, then there is nothing wrong with your Internet connection. But if you log on Wednesday and find some of your favorite websites have gone dark, you'll have only Congress to blame.
If you dial up Reddit, Wikipedia, Boing Boing, Mozilla.org, Tucows, or dozens of other sites tomorrow, you may find nothing but a black screen. They're all participating in the call for an Internet blackout to protest two proposed copyright laws: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).
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The idea behind SOPA and PIPA is to combat Internet piracy that occurs outside our borders, where U.S. laws hold no sway. The lawmakers' solution: Make those sites invisible to U.S. citizens by forcing ISPs and other service providers to wipe the names of infringing sites from DNS records. Though they'd still be accessible by IP address, the domain names themselves would not resolve.
What would that do? It might stop GetPiratedMoviesHere.com from being accessed by nonsavvy netizens. It could also block sites like WikiLeaks, which has published secret copyrighted materials from banks and other organizations. In fact, it seems pretty clear this law is at least partially designed to take down WikiLeaks, which is hosted in Iceland.
It gets worse: Sites that may contain a single page of infringing material could suddenly go dark. Sites that contain links to pages of infringing material might also get blacklisted. Good-bye Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter.
An analysis of PIPA by five independent security wonks [PDF] says the law would gut efforts at increasing the security of the domain name system while doing nothing to prevent actual piracy. It could also cause "significant collateral damage" by inadvertently filtering non-infringing sites.
But the Hollywood/media cartel doesn't care about collateral damage. Remember, the biggest trade groups greasing the wheels on this train wreck are the RIAA, the MPAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose politics are slightly to the right of Mussolini.
Want to see where all this grease is going? Propublica has a handy color-coded guide to where your congressional lapdogs stand on these bills. It's an odd mix of bedfellows on either side of the issue, but it's pretty clear whose money is doing most of the talking. According to Congressional money watchdog Maplight.org, industries supporting SOPA have funneled more than $92 million to members of Congress since July 2009 -- or 13 times as much as those who oppose it.