The Oatmeal Protests SOPA and PIPA

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Jan 12 2012

Location: 

The Internet

On January 18, 2012, numerous website across the internet called for an internet blackout in protest of SOPA and PIPA. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, and PIPA, the Protect IP Act, were a series of bills promoted by Hollywood in the US Congress that would have created a “blacklist” of censored websites. Although the bills were aimed to reach foreign websites dedicated to providing illegal content, their provisions would allow for the removal of enormous amounts of non-infringing content, including political and other speech, from the internet. These bills are targeted at "rogue" websites that allow indiscriminate piracy, but use vague definitions that could include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire, and Rapidshare; sites that discuss piracy such as pirate-party.us, p2pnet, Torrent Freak, torproject.org, and ZeroPaid; as well as a broad range of sites for user-generated content, such as SoundCloud, Etsy, and Deviant Art. Had these bills been passed five or ten years ago, even YouTube might not exist today — in other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous.
Among the websites that “blacked out” in protest of the bills was a comics website called The Oatmeal. While most websites joined the blackout and used their pages as demonstration sites, one of the most interesting displays was perhaps made by the Oatmeal, which used an animated gif to break down the bills and describe what the implications could be – especially for entertainment sights – if they were passed. Done in a quintessential Oatmeal style, the gif was humorous while also being informative.
The website, in a small description also talks of its personal journey as a victim of piracy and recognizes the need for a certain form of legislature, but also sees SOPA and PIPA as detrimental to free speech on the internet.

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