Wednesday, January 18, 2012

De-Blackout Wikipedia with This Bookmarklet - Javascript fixes the Wikipedia blackout

Yes, Wikipedia is blacked out to protest SOPA, the bill that wants to censor your internet. We're already staunchly anti-SOPA around Lifehacker HQ, so while we're all for the blackout (solidarity!), it's kind of preaching to the choir. And while we've rounded up a few ways to circumvent the blackout, the best yet comes courtesy of Chris Beidelman.

Says Chris:

Some simple Javascript fixes the Wikipedia blackout:

Javascript:document.body.removeChild(document.getElementById("mw-sopaOverlay"));var a=document.getElementById("content").style.display="block";var a=document.getElementById("mw-head").style.display="block";var a=document.getElementById("mw-panel").style.display="block";var a=document.getElementById("footer").style.display="block";var a=document.getElementById("mw-page-base").style.display="block";var a=document.getElementById("mw-head-base").style.display="block";

Just open the Wikipedia article, paste the above code into the address bar, and hit enter. Can be made into a bookmarklet.

It's a lot easier to click a bookmark than copy and paste that JavaScript text every time you want to de-blackout a page, so just drag and drop the link below into your bookmark toolbar and click it whenever you want to de-blackout a page on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia White <- drag and drop this link to your browser's bookmark toolbar


What Is SOPA?

If you hadn't heard of SOPA before, you probably have by now: Some of the internet's most influential sites—Reddit and Wikipedia among them—are going dark to protest the much-maligned anti-piracy bill. But other than being a very bad thing, what is SOPA? And what will it mean for you if it passes?

SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress...

House Judiciary Committee Chair and Texas Republican Lamar Smith, along with 12 co-sponsors, introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act on October 26th of last year. Debate on H.R. 3261, as it's formally known, has consisted of one hearing on November 16th and a "mark-up period" on December 15th, which was designed to make the bill more agreeable to both parties. Its counterpart in the Senate is the Protect IP Act (S. 968). Also known by its cuter-but-still-deadly name: PIPA. There will likely be a vote on PIPA next Wednesday; SOPA discussions had been placed on hold but will resume in February of this year.

...that would grant content creators extraordinary power over the internet...

The beating heart of SOPA is the ability of intellectual property owners (read: movie studios and record labels) to effectively pull the plug on foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site's ISP prevent people from even going there.

...which would go almost comedically unchecked...

Perhaps the most galling thing about SOPA in its original construction is that it let IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off. All it required was a single letter claiming a "good faith belief" that the target site has infringed on its content. Once Google or PayPal or whoever received the quarantine notice, they would have five days to either abide or to challenge the claim in court. Rights holders still have the power to request that kind of blockade, but in the most recent version of the bill the five day window has softened, and companies now would need the court's permission.

The language in SOPA implies that it's aimed squarely at foreign offenders; that's why it focuses on cutting off sources of funding and traffic (generally US-based) rather than directly attacking a targeted site (which is outside of US legal jurisdiction) directly. But that's just part of it. the point of potentially creating an "Internet Blacklist"...

Here's the other thing: Payment processors or content providers like Visa or YouTube don't even need a letter shut off a site's resources. The bill's "vigilante" provision gives broad immunity to any provider who proactively shutters sites it considers to be infringers. Which means the MPAA just needs to publicize one list of infringing sites to get those sites blacklisted from the internet.

Potential for abuse is rampant. As Public Knowledge points out, Google could easily take it upon itself to delist every viral video site on the internet with a "good faith belief" that they're hosting copyrighted material. Leaving YouTube as the only major video portal. Comcast (an ISP) owns NBC (a content provider). Think they might have an interest in shuttering some rival domains? Under SOPA, they can do it without even asking for permission.

...while exacting a huge cost from nearly every site you use daily...

SOPA also includes an "anti-circumvention" clause, which holds that telling people how to work around SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. In other words: if your status update links to The Pirate Bay, Facebook would be legally obligated to remove it. Ditto tweets, YouTube videos, Tumblr or WordPress posts, or sites indexed by Google. And if Google, Twitter, Wordpress, Facebook, etc. let it stand? They face a government "enjoinment." They could and would be shut down.

The resources it would take to self-police are monumental for established companies, and unattainable for start-ups. SOPA would censor every online social outlet you have, and prevent new ones from emerging.

...and potentially disappearing your entire digital life...

The party line on SOPA is that it only affects seedy off-shore torrent sites. That's false. As the big legal brains at Bricoleur point out, the potential collateral damage is huge. And it's you. Because while Facebook and Twitter have the financial wherewithal to stave off anti-circumvention shut down notices, the smaller sites you use to store your photos, your videos, and your thoughts may not. If the government decides any part of that site infringes on copyright and proves it in court? Poof. Your digital life is gone, and you can't get it back.

...while still managing to be both unnecessary and ineffective...

What's saddest about SOPA is that it's pointless on two fronts. In the US, the MPAA, and RIAA already have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to request that infringing material be taken down. We've all seen enough "video removed" messages to know that it works just fine.

As for the foreign operators, you might as well be throwing darts at a tse-tse fly. The poster child of overseas torrenting, Pirate Bay, has made it perfectly clear that they're not frightened in the least. And why should they be? Its proprietors have successfully evaded any technological attempt to shut them down so far. Its advertising partners aren't US-based, so they can't be choked out. But more important than Pirate Bay itself is the idea of Pirate Bay, and the hundreds or thousands of sites like it, as populous and resilient as mushrooms in a marsh. Forget the question of should SOPA succeed. It's incredibly unlikely that it could. At least at its stated goals.

...but stands a shockingly good chance of passing...

SOPA is, objectively, an unfeasible trainwreck of a bill, one that willfully misunderstands the nature of the internet and portends huge financial and cultural losses. The White House has come out strongly against it. As have hundreds of venture capitalists and dozens of the men and women who helped build the internet in the first place. In spite of all this, companies have already spent a lot of money pushing SOPA, and it remains popular in the House of Representatives.

That mark-up period on December 15th, the one that was supposed to transform the bill into something more manageable? Useless. Twenty sanity-fueled amendments were flat-out rejected. And while the bill's most controversial provision—mandatory DNS filtering—was thankfully taken off the table recently, in practice internet providers would almost certainly still use DNS as a tool to shut an accused site down.

...unless we do something about it.

The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement has been slow to build, but we're finally at a saturation point. Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, TwitPic: they'll all be dark on January 18th. An anti-SOPA rally has been planned for tomorrow afternoon in New York. The list of companies supporting SOPA is long but shrinking, thanks in no small part to the emails and phone calls they've received in the last few months.

So keep calling. Keep emailing. Most of all, keep making it known that the internet was built on the same principles of freedom that this country was. It should be afforded to the same rights.

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MLB Supports SOPA and That Should Bother You

By Mike Silva ~ January 18th, 2012. Filed under: Business of Sports.

Having trouble using Wikipedia today? That’s because the online encyclopedia is participating in an “Internet blackout” in protest of two controversial anti-piracy bills: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Reports indicate each has a good chance of being passed early this year. I think it’s important to understand this isn’t something falling along party lines, this is a fight by the establishment (i.e. corporations) to use legislation to stack the deck in their favor since our Fortune 500s have lost the desire to compete in a free marketplace. Even worse, they disguise it innocuously as if they are doing it to protect their trademark rights.

Gizmodo does a great job of laying out the issues for readers to understand. Wikipedia is asking for your zip code today, and they provide you with the contact information for your local officials.  Out here on Long Island its Tim Bishop, Steve Israel, Chuck Schumer, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

In theory, this is an innocent bill. SOPA gives the ability of intellectual property owners to effectively pull the plug on foreign sites against whom they have a copyright claim. It lets IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance. All it requires is a single letter claiming a “good faith belief” that the target site has infringed on its content. These loose interpretations could potentially lead to abuses with far-reaching consequences.

I am not supporting anyone going to an illegal site to download a movie, game, or music. I believe this type of bill with vague standards is just the beginning of corporations extending their tentacles to snuff out competition. Small independent websites don’t have the budget to hire a $500 dollar per hour corporate attorney to watch for every violation. I try to make sure that all pictures and videos here are legal (I rely on YouTube to do that for me on the latter), but undoubtedly there has to be errors at some point. In theory, this bill could allow MLB to shut me down on a whim without a chance of a fight. Do you think sites that criticize Bud Selig or a specific team would get more scrutiny? With all the laws on the books it’s highly likely they could find something to tie you to a violation. If you don’t believe me, clearly you don’t understand this country’s modern corporate culture and what it’s about.

Here is the list of companies that are supporting the bills.

List of Supporters: H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act

60 Plus Association
Actors’ Equity Association (AEA)
Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP)
American Bankers Association (ABA)
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
American Federation of Musicians (AFM)
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA)
American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA)
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
Americans for Tax Reform
Association of American Publishers (AAP)
Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies
Beachbody, LLC
BMG Chrysalis
Building and Construction Trades Department
Capitol Records Nashville
Cengage Learning
Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF)
Christian Music Trade Association
Church Music Publishers’ Association
Coalition Against Online Video Piracy (CAOVP)
Concerned Women for America (CWA)
Congressional Fire Services Institute
Copyright Alliance
Coty, Inc.
Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB)
Council of State Governments
Country Music Association
Country Music Television
Creative America
Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
Directors Guild of America (DGA)
Disney Publishing Worldwide, Inc.
EMI Christian Music Group
EMI Music Publishing
Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
Estée Lauder Companies
Gospel Music Association
Graphic Artists Guild
Hachette Book Group
HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, Inc.
Independent Film & Television Alliance (IFTA)
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians,
Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada (IATSE)
International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)
International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)
International Trademark Association (INTA)
International Union of Police Associations
Let Freedom Ring
Lost Highway Records
Major County Sheriffs
Major League Baseball
Majority City Chiefs
Marvel Entertainment, LLC
MasterCard Worldwide
MCA Records
McGraw-Hill Education
Mercury Nashville
Minor League Baseball (MiLB)
Minority Media & Telecom Council (MMTC)
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media
National Association of Fusion Center Directors
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators
National Association of State Chief Information Officers
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO)
National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA)
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Criminal Justice Association
National District Attorneys Association
National Domestic Preparedness Coalition
National Football League
National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition
National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA)
National Songwriters Association
National Troopers Coalition
News Corporation
Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU)
Pearson Education
Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
Pfizer, Inc.
Provident Music Group
Random House
Republic Nashville
Scholastic, Inc.
Screen Actors Guild (SAG)
Showdog Universal Music
Simon & Schuster
Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Sony Music Entertainment
Sony Music Nashville
State International Development Organization (SIDO)
The Perseus Books Groups
The United States Conference of Mayors
Tiffany & Co.
Time Warner
True Religion Brand Jeans
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
UMG Publishing Group Nashville
United States Chamber of Commerce
United States Olympic Committee
United States Tennis Association
Universal Music
Universal Music Publishing Group
Visa Inc.
W.W. Norton & Company
Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, L.P.
Warner Music Group
Warner Music Nashville
Wolters Kluewer Health
Word Entertainment
Zumba Fitness, LLC

Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and Disney, which owns ESPN, are on the list. They will tell you it’s to stop illegal use of their product, but why isn’t the NBA or NHL on the list? Perhaps because they are third and fourth tier sports that still need to compete for customers? What will stop any sports league from using this bill to target individual sites they deem dangerous because of critical content? What makes you think ESPN wouldn’t push their corporate partners to help them shut down sites under the guise of intellectual property? You create something successful and take away customers from the big boys, and they will find a way to put you out of business. Business has become about legislating out competitors versus generating new ideas or improving current product lines.

I am all for legislation that goes after individuals that pirate copyrighted material. This bill appears to be too vague and far-reaching. Modern corporations can’t be trusted with this far-reaching power because they will use it in a way to destroy necessary competition. The reality is this type of bill could wind up legislating our news. Is that a situation you feel comfortable with? Imagine the only baseball information you received was from MLB and its preferred news partners? Think you might be kept in the dark? Now imagine this was the situation for the important news issues of the day.

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