Why the protest? Well, these bills were intended to curb online piracy and copyright infringement (good), but did so in a really technologically uninformed and dangerous way (bad).
In addition to these bills not actually helping curb online piracy, they grant an incredible amount of leeway to allow the government and companies to arbitrarily censor and monitor the communication of people using the internet, both in our country and abroad. A few fun nuggets about the PIPA bill, quoted from publicknowledge.org :
- PIPA is overbroad. By including "information location tools," it makes nearly every actor on the Internet a potential violator.
- PIPA is bad international precedent. By sanctioning government interference with DNS, it would be used as justification for other countries to hinder freedom of expression of online.
- PIPA is ripe for abuse. By creating a "private right of action," rights holders could directly go after payment processors and ad networks.
- PIPA speeds fragmentation of the Internet. By targeting DNS, it could lead to a fragmentation of the Internet, running contrary to the U.S. government's commitment to advancing a single, global Internet.
There is a lengthy list of reputable organizations protesting these bills, including legal scholars, human rights organizations, industry groups, and engineers. Also, Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab and fellow CS blogger, has a great post summarizing this issue, as does Trevor Trimm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
I urge you to take action and urge your congress members to reject this bill.