In case you haven't noticed, there's something very important going on across thousands of sites today, many of which are blacked out in protest of some controversial legislation currently working its way through Congress, called SOPA. In essence, the bill is an attempt to curb the kind of Internet piracy that let you download Season 2 of Downton Abbey for free.
Not to get into the hairy details, but both SOPA and its sister bill, PIPA, could profoundly change the way you use digital media for everything from celeb news, to dining recommendations, to... well... everything. The bills, in their original forms, would have allowed larger media conglomerates to blacklist some of your favorite fashion sites – say, HuffPost Style, Fashionista, us – simply for publishing a link to material posted outside of copyright law. Sources like Fashion Spot, Fashion Copious, and Fashin would quickly cease to exist, while style bloggers would be under constant threat. Say you saw an editorial in a magazine and wanted to post it with a side-by-side comparison of how to get the look. That simple, fairly typical post on your blog could mean readers would no longer be able to easily access your site and there would be little to nothing you could do about it.
While such elements of SOPA and PIPA might protect the bottom lines of larger, more traditional media outlets, it could very well spell the end of the vibrant, user-centric culture of style sites that have exploded into being over the last five years.
Thankfully, President Obama has stated that he would reject these bills if they should reach his desk with these most harmful provisions intact. That (along with the fact that three of the bill's sponsors have withdrawn their support) is slowing down the bill, but not killing it. It's still out there and supporters, lawmakers, and, most importantly, lobbyists, are still fighting to take away your access to fashion online. Today's blackouts were originally meant to protest a congressional hearing on SOPA – a hearing that probably won't amount to much after moves by the White House and various legislators. So now, today is about awareness, about how we have to stand against similar, future attempts to curb access and freedom online (and if you're looking to further that awareness past today, there's already SOPA merch on the market...).
Basically, it boils down to this – Internet, good; SOPA, bad. For expert explanations on how SOPA could affect your online habits and millions of web sites (including this one), click on the video above, this great interview with the founder of Reddit, Gizmodo's solid explanation, this wonderful column from Mashable, Wired's coverage, and Esquire's simple primer. This is important stuff folks, even if you're just looking for a pair of booties to go with that ultra-chic skirt you picked up last week.
Photo: Via Fight For The Future.