Why is Wikipedia blacked out today

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      And why is Google blacking out its logo? Why are various other websites down? One simple reason that will affect HillRunner.com, as well as Wikipedia, Google, and most other websites on the Internet: SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act” in the US House of Representatives) and PIPA (the “Protect Intellectual Property Act” in the US Senate).

      Why are these such a big deal? This is why (courtesy Mashable).

      I won't repeat all that has already been so well stated there but I will tell you what this means for HillRunner.com. As HillRunner.com is run now, it could be declared “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property” which would make HillRunner.com a criminal website, which could result in it being taken offline and leave me facing criminal charges. Why? Because of the forums, primarily.

      An `Internet site is dedicated to theft of U.S. property’ if [a portion of the site is US-directed] and is used by users within the United States and is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables or facilitates [copyright violation or circumvention of copyright protection measures].

      Still doesn’t sound that bad, but consider this: Any site that allows users to post content is “primarily designed for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables copyright violation.” The site doesn’t have to be clearly designed for the purpose of copyright violation; it only has to provide functionality that can be used to enable copyright violation.

      In short, these forums provide functionality that can be used to enable copyright violation (you could post copyrighted writings or link to illegal copies of copyrighted work). Unless I change the functionality of the forums so that I review every post that is made before it is publicly visible, HillRunner.com is in violation and I am a criminal for running a site “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property”. It is not feasible for this community to continue as we have grown to expect it if I have to personally review every post made for copyright infringement before it gets made public. Not only that but what about Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and the thousands if not millions of sites with a forum or blog or public comments on articles? If either of these bills pass as written now, this will fundamentally change the Internet for the worse. It will stifle innovation, it will effectively run many smaller sites out of business, and it will leave sites like HillRunner.com in flux. These forums are extremely important to me and I believe critical to HillRunner.com. However, are they worth risking criminal prosecution?

      Is HillRunner.com likely to be a target? I highly doubt it. However, place yourself in my shoes for a moment. Even if there is extremely low risk of HillRunner.com being targeted, is keeping these forums going as is worth even an extremely low risk of criminal prosecution? If either of these bills pass, I am going to have to think long and hard about what becomes of the HillRunner.com Forums.

      I know, this sounds like a lot of hysteria and some of you may be thinking I'm being a Chicken Little for being worried about this. When I first heard of SOPA and PIPA, I thought the same of the people who were giving these warnings. The more I looked into this, the more I realized that this may not be the intent of the bills but, the way they are written, it is a real concern.

      Please, not just for HillRunner.com but for all the sites that you use frequently or infrequently to share information with friends, family, complete strangers, or anyone else, contact your Representative and Senators and tell them to oppose both SOPA and PIPA. There are better ways to protect intellectual property than this legislation that will place millions of websites, including HillRunner.com, in the crossfire.

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