Paint It Black: 7 Ways You Can Protest SOPA and PIPA

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So it’s lights out for Wikipedia, a blacked-over logo for Google, Reddit closing up for 12 hours and thousands of others shuttering for a day to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) — what can you do if you don’t have a website that gets a bazillion hits a day?

If you’ve never heard of SOPA or PIPA, you can learn what they are. Today’s protests aren’t meant to cripple the Internet (and in most cases, they don’t — you can still access Wikipedia content, for instance, if you really need to) but rather to raise awareness about what these bills are and why they’re controversial. Start by reading SOPA, then having a look at PIPA — or if you want a friendlier overview, our own Jerry Brito provides an insightful summary of both bills here.

(MORE: At the Top of Congress’ New Year Agenda? Regulate the Net)

Contact your Congressional representatives. The U.S. Senate lets you search by name or state and returns phone numbers and official websites, while the U.S. House of Representatives lets you plug in your state and zip code to drill down to your local Representative (though you’ll also need to know your +4).

Sign one of the major petitions protesting these bills. Non-profit Fight for the Future has a page up titled ‘Stop American Censorship’ that lets you contact Congress as well as sign a petition to the State Department. Then there’s Google’s ‘End Piracy, Not Liberty’ petition to Congress and Change.org’s Protest SOPA with 24 Hour Content Blackout petition.

Censor your website. No, really, black it out. If you have a website or a blog, shut it down with a logo explaining why you’re doing so (12 hours minimum seems to be the going timeframe). Fight for the Future has a how-to guide up with links to others. Then be sure to let people know what you did through social networks, e.g. Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Boycott organizations that support SOPA. The House Judiciary maintains a list of SOPA supporters here (note: at time of publication, that list includes our parent company, Time Warner).

Follow the news. Learn more about what’s at stake. Stay informed. Remember, today’s just the beginning. Congress is due to put PIPA to the test on Jan. 24. SOPA’s been delayed in the House, and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says the House won’t vote on SOPA unless it has a consensus, but things could change at a moment’s notice.

Learn about the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN). Protesting SOPA and PIPA isn’t enough. Most Americans agree that piracy’s a problem, and the best way to fight a bad solution to a problem is with a better one. In this case, that appears to be OPEN, a bill introduced by Representative Issa and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that deals with digital piracy without empowering the government to censor websites.

MORE: Don’t Understand SOPA? Help Is Close at Hand

Disclosure: Time Inc. parent company Time Warner supports SOPA legislation.

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham, Google+ or Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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