Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

Some of the Internet’s leading websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, and BoingBoing, will go dark tomorrow to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The U.S. bills have generated massive public protest over proposed provisions that could cause enormous harm to the Internet and freedom of speech. My blog will join the protest by going dark tomorrow. While there is little that Canadians can do to influence U.S. legislation, there are many reasons why I think it is important for Canadians to participate.

First, the SOPA provisions are designed to have an extra-territorial effect that manifests itself particularly strongly in Canada. As I discussed in a column last year, SOPA treats all dot-com, dot-net, and dot-org domain as domestic domain names for U.S. law purposes. Moreover, it defines “domestic Internet protocol addresses” – the numeric strings that constitute the actual address of a website or Internet connection – as “an Internet Protocol address for which the corresponding Internet Protocol allocation entity is located within a judicial district of the United States.” Yet IP addresses are allocated by regional organizations, not national ones. The allocation entity located in the U.S. is called ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers. Its territory includes the U.S., Canada, and 20 Caribbean nations. This bill treats all IP addresses in this region as domestic for U.S. law purposes. To put this is context, every Canadian Internet provider relies on ARIN for its block of IP addresses. In fact, ARIN even allocates the block of IP addresses used by federal and provincial governments. The U.S. bill would treat them all as domestic for U.S. law purposes.

Second, Canadian businesses and websites could easily find themselves targeted by SOPA. The bill grants the U.S. “in rem” jurisdiction over any website that does not have a domestic jurisdictional connection. For those sites, the U.S. grants jurisdiction over the property of the site and opens the door to court orders requiring Internet providers to block the site and Internet search engines to stop linking to it. Should a Canadian website owner wish to challenge the court order, U.S. law asserts itself in another way, since in order for an owner to file a challenge (described as a “counter notification”), the owner must first consent to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts.

Third, millions of Canadians rely on the legitimate sites that are affected by the legislation. Whether creating a Wikipedia entry, posting a comment on Reddit, running a WordPress blog, participating in an open source software project, or reading a posting on BoingBoing, the lifeblood of the Internet is a direct target of SOPA. If Canadians remain silent, they may ultimately find the sites and services they rely upon silenced by this legislation.

Fourth, the U.S. intellectual property strategy has long been premised on exporting its rules to other countries, including Canada. Spain’s recent anti-piracy legislation that bears similarities to SOPA is the direct result of U.S. threats of retaliation if it did not pass U.S.-backed laws. Canada has a history of similar experiences. The same forces that have lobbied for SOPA and PIPA in the United States are the primary lobbyists behind the digital lock provisions in Bill C-11 and the recent submission to the U.S. government arguing that Canada should not be admitted to the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations until it complies with U.S. copyright demands. Moreover, the Wikileaks cables documented relentless U.S. pressure in Canada including revelations that former Industry Minister Maxime Bernier raised the possibility of leaking the copyright bill to U.S. officials before it was to be tabled it in the House of Commons, former Industry Minister Tony Clement’s director of policy Zoe Addington encouraged the U.S. to pressure Canada by elevating it on a piracy watch list, Privy Council Office official Ailish Johnson disclosed the content of ministerial mandate letters, and former RCMP national coordinator for intellectual property crime Andris Zarins advised the U.S. that the government was working on a separate intellectual property enforcement bill.

SOPA virtually guarantees that this will continue. Not only is it likely that the U.S. will begin to incorporate SOPA-like provisions into its IP demands, but SOPA makes it a matter of U.S. law to ensure that intellectual property protection is a significant component of U.S. foreign policy and grants more resources to U.S. embassies around the world to increase their involvement in foreign legal reform.

The SOPA/PIPA protest tomorrow offers people around the world the opportunity to add their voice against dangerous legislative proposals that could eventually make its way into international trade agreements and domestic lobbying pressures. For Canadians participating in the protest, consider this three step process:

  1. If you have a website or blog, turn it dark for the day with information on SOPA, Bill C-11 and why this issue matters. If not, consider adding Stop Sopa to your Twitter or Facebook image.
  2. Write to your Member of Parliament to register one more objection to the digital lock rules in Bill C-11. The digital lock rules are the Canadian version of SOPA – overbroad, ineffective legislation that targets technology and that is widely opposed by most stakeholders. While many are frustrated by the sense the government simply ignores these objections, the SOPA protests are attracting attention and it is important to remind Canadian politicians of the similar concerns here.
  3. Speak out against the copyright provisions in the Trans Pacific Partnership, particularly the plans for copyright term extension and the digital lock rules. The government consultation is open until February 14, 2012. All it takes a single email with your name, address, and comments on the issue. The email can be sent to Alternatively, submissions can be sent by fax (613-944-3489) or mail (Trade Negotiations Consultations (TPP), Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division II (TPW), Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G2).


  1. Bobbie Saga says:

    Once again, thank you Dr. Geist. I agree and support the blackout. Also, I applaud and continue to support your work to bring the looming lawful access legislation from beneath the public’s radar.

  2. It is my suggestion to the other participants here that they not goad John on with his ‘corrections’. Let his lack of anything substantive to say stand on it’s own.

    It is telling that such behaviour is tolerated by the moderator here but John feels free limit dissenting speech on his own site.

  3. Great post

  4. I understand the incentives for this sort of action, but try to bear in mind that this sort of “going dark” is the result of a conscious decision by participants such as Wikipedia and the others, and not a direct ramification of the actual passing of this bill. It’s a peaceful protest that will probably inconvenience a lot of people, and might even gather significant publicity, but I fear is likely to only generally be interpreted as an attempt to manipulate the Senate to further a particular agenda, rather than awaken anyone to the real problems with the bill, simply because so few people really understand the principles that make the bill a bad idea from the outset.

    “Going dark” is much more likely to be viewed as akin to throwing a temper tantrum because one is not getting their way than it is any sort of sincere attempt to awaken anybody to the problems that this bill actually presents. While some might educate themselves as a result, I expect that it will mostly just anger the people it inconveniences, rather than motivate them to find out what why the bill is actually directly bad for them.

  5. Alternate DNS
    There’s no law that says we all have to participate in the DNS network rooted in the USA. If this law passes it won’t be long before other countries start passing laws requiring their ISPs to participate in national or regional DNS networks that partially or fully independant of the original, American one.

    Of course this would protect them from having web sites wiped off the internet by the Americans. But it would also give them the same powers as the Americans to wipe others off the internet!

    Ultimately it would be disastrous for the internet as we all became DNS hoppers, flipping our routers from one server to another depending on whether we were sending an e-mail or streaming a movie or . . .

  6. I’m trying an alternative to dark
    I don’t like dark. I’m putting this first on my index.html (style white-on-black sans-serif — without a preview this comment may look strange):

    NOT DARKRead while you still can

    Under legislation proposed in the United States Senate, this website could vanish at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.
    (Please note that other people and businesses mentioned on this website have not explicitely approved this message and may not agree with it.)

    Michael Geist explains.
    Although with his blog going dark in protest, I don’t know what you are going to see.

  7. I’m trying an alternative to dark
    OK. Kind of confusing. “Michael Geist explains” will be a hyperlink to the blog article we’re commenting on.

  8. Canadian media’s coverage of the blackout is quite disheartening. I would’ve hoped that there’d be mention of C-11 and other IP related politics in Canada but there’s nothing. Not that they did much journalism previously.

  9. Crockett,

    I’m not sure what your friendly advice to participants has to do with this posting (or anything for that matter). To which “corrections” are you referring?

    For the record, I do NOT limit dissenting speech on my blog. My policy is clearly stated. Genuine, respectful, insightful comments and questions from real people are welcome.

    Just the other day I found myself at lunch with someone who disagreed with me on my blog. We had a respectful, enjoyable conversation. I still disagree with him, but he’s welcome to continue commenting.

  10. Sorry folks, how can one resist?
    @Degen “To which “corrections” are you referring?”

    Well there’s here: and in just about any of your other recent postings.

    @Degen “Genuine, respectful, insightful comments and questions from real people are welcome.”

    Anyone researching the above link will see your definition of respectful (0_o).

    And speaking of definitions .. if you could share your’s of what constitutes ‘Real People’, I’m sure we would all find it enlightening 😀

  11. Wondering whether Isohunt will participate.

    Or Degen.

  12. Iceman,

    I will be protesting piracy by not reading Michael Geist’s blog tomorrow. Pass it on. Call your MP.

  13. More Than One Day Of Action Needed
    I’m in complete agreement with you, Michael. I’m a member of a large and growing community of web television creators who are using the net to reach audiences previously unavailable to us. We know the large media industry lobby is backing SOPA so vigorously because they see it as the means of propping up their decaying business model – they don’t care if they destroy the net along the way.

    There are a myriad of businesses, educational enterprises and (most important of all) opportunities to exercise free speech and the political will of the citizenry which are endangered by this kind of corporate control of our communications infrastructure – and they will not be stopping their efforts even when we are successful at blocking both SOPA and PIPA. Many other outrageous ventures to kill or control the net (or to “civilize” it as French President Sarkozy put it)will continue to be brought forth – many under the radar in efforts to avoid public scrutiny and outcry.

    In the coming days, weeks, months and years we must continue in our vigilance and our protests. Assuredly, one day of blacked out web sites won’t cure the entire situation – but every voice added, every action taken, shared and shouted only serves to strengthen the whole of our efforts to maintain a free and open web.

    Thanks for posting this and encouraging more to join in these very necessary acts of civil and political discourse.


  14. going dark
    We have heard about this quite some time ago. This is right up Harper’s alley. I’m sure this has come up in talks, between Obama and Harper many times.

    Politicians hate the web, because their dastardly deed are exposed. Harper the dictator, now does his dirty deeds behind closed doors. The Canadian media is also muzzled.

    There is not one damned thing right about this abomination. There is no such thing as, Democracy and Freedom, our Civil Rights and Liberties have been taken away from us. Freedom of speech is no longer recognized.

    I’m not sure if this is Fascism or Communism. It certainly isn’t the lands of the free. Democratic U.S.A. balderdash. Democratic Canada, double balderdash.

  15. Why does the White House view shift when it’s external?
    “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small.” – the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. []

    Can someone who the current Canadian.. sorry, Harper Government actually listens to send this along? Maybe to someone forcing the C-11 Bill through?

  16. @Linda

    Actually it’s called capitalism which is the system we live under hence why these politicians represent them not us. Also don’t equate communism with fascism since communism has never existed and fascism is actually capitalism in decay.

  17. How can a website shutdown affect any policy makers?????? it only informs the citizen. We should all vote against it and/or send an email to our Prime Minister S Harper’s Office ” ” condemning this US Invasion of our land. All other countries should do the same to their respective leaders.

  18. I want to thank you for taking the time to help Canadians see what we can do to protest these bills, as well as our own. It’s nice to not feel completely helpless in face of the biggest threats to open internet we have ever faced. As a teacher, I am sure my students will run across this (actually, I’m positive, since they all rely on Wikipedia so much for their research!) and this will be an excellent point to continue our conversation about censorship. thanks again SO much!

  19. littlebearz says:

    it seems reading the blog comments is as insightful as reading the post. though i do have to ask if the emails we sent are indeed going to those person mentioned and not junk mail i hope.

  20. David "AnjelusX" Slauenwhite says:

    Sadly what happens south of the border has a bad habit of crossing the border
    Even were it not for the fairly obvious impact SOPA/PIPA would have on Canadian sites, I still would (and did) shut my site done in solidarity. We might be citizens of a different country (in relation to SOPA/PIPA) but on the internet, we are all citizens of the world, connected globally so we must make any stand against nation censorship an international issue.

  21. Speaking of crossing the border …
    We all know copyright and tech policy issues south of the border eventually end up modelling our own.

    There is a group of tech people in the USA raising funds from the public to hire a lobbying firm to represent public internet issues.

    It is a sad prospectus on our society that the public interest apparently needs to play the same game as the corporate sector, but so be it I suppose.

    I have pledged $20, anyone care to match or up that?

  22. I think it’s a great idea. Maybe we could put up a big firewall and block everything from the US both in and out then we won’t have to listen to them anymore.

  23. Prime example of intelligent people being greatly un(mis)informed …
    The Lang & O’Leary show had a piece on SOPA & Internet piracy. At the 50 min mark O’Leary goes on to say how he watched with fascination as legislation solved the music industries woes.'Leary_Exchange/1319430780/ID=2188276791

    Now I need not point out the fallacy of such a statement to most here, Prof. Geist does a well enough job of that, but what is shocking is someone who is supposed to be a high profile expert on the business world could have been convinced otherwise!

    This just goes to show how insidiously the lobby and disinformation practices of the content industry have sucked people in.

    The main reason I find such resonance with this issue is I travel the world quite extensively and see corruption in many forms and the damage it unfolds. Then, when I return home, I am comforted to find the great freedoms & safeguards we have here. So, when I do see the outright lies, greed and pandering from these quarters it emboldens me to act.

    Now I am not naive enough to believe that all opponents of this resent rash of legislation are in it for the altruism. Some are there to get their piece of the pie as well as the plate, yet I believe there is genuine concern to protect the freedoms of expression and the driver of innovation that the Internet has provided to the world.

    My two cents worth. Check out for more information and ways to oppose internet censorship.

  24. A little (relevant) levity to the issue …

  25. One last comment …
    Well, it seems the ‘fight back’ tactic of the content industry is to call today’s protesters the ‘real censors’ for some of them ‘blacking out’ their site for a WHOLE 24 hours.

    That is sort of like the school yard bully calling his skinny punching bag a promoter of violence for finally bopping him in the nose 😀

  26. a msg from
    Clay Shirky talks about SOPA and PIPA from the offices of

  27. Concerned Citizen says:

    Hey, what’s going on? This website doesn’t have any relevant or helpful information about Canadian copyright. Is the blackout still on?

  28. “Hey, what’s going on? This website doesn’t have any relevant or helpful information about Canadian copyright. Is the blackout still on?”

    I don’t think so … can you hear me now John?

  29. To put these restrictions on the internet will totally destroy the internet as we know it. Can you imagine what would happen if another country tried to do the same thing as the Americans are proposing? The war planes would be out in full force in order to maintain a peoples “freedom of information”. It is well recognized that control over the internet will result in billions of dollars in income to whatever organization can do it. This is merely step one in an attempt to destroy communications between the members of the public.

    America is in danger of a revolution. Americans (this includes Canadians) have had enough of excessive profit- taking from the top one percent and will not take this abuse without protesting.

    What the movie industry needs is enforcement of the laws that prevents people from profiting from the sales of pirated material. To stop any kind of peer downloading will probably totally destroy the movie business. The industry knows this.
    As people download, they talk about what they download, as anyone knows this is great advertising. The movie moguls have the capabilities of producing their media in ways that cannot be copied.

    If this legislation goes through, we will see protesting and sit-ins like we have never seen before or can imagine.

    It might be a long hot summer. The profit takers have shot themselves in the foot, they are very close to shooting themselves in the head.

  30. May I use your article to bolster my own argument?
    Dr. Geist, I would very much appreciate it if you would allow me to link this article to a post on my blog as an expert’s opinion to back up my own opposition to the bills, please? I am no lawyer, and need any arguments I can get!

  31. The Horror of SOPA
    Let me tell you the horror of SOPA. I load this page on Tuesday. I type a LONG comment on Wednesday and, before finishing, realized I couldn’t post it till today. So I waited for Friday. Later, when I _meant_ to press Command-T for a new tab, I accidently pressed the R and refreshed the page. Comment eaten by SOPA protest! Be VERY afraid kids!

  32. Saint Anger says:

    Im ready…
    Im ready to start a war over it! Its stupid. They will never win! Its a waste of money! Need i go on? NO!

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