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SOPA: Behind the Blackouts

photo by flickr user Horia Varlan

Maybe you’ve noticed that some key sites on the internet have black, empty homepages today.  If you haven’t read about the reasons why, here’s a short overview:

There’s a bill going through Congress right now called SOPA, or Stop Online Privacy Act.  This video tells you how it aims to do that, and why internet users and website creators are wary of it.

Many people have been speaking out against the bill, to try to fight what they see as backing from the entertainment industry to push this into law.  (Here’s a list of companies who support the bill, collected by the International Business Times).

The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides us with a helpful summary of actions so far from December, and notes that there will be a hearing on January 18th (tomorrow) to hear testimony from tech experts.

To raise awareness of protests against SOPA, Wikipedia, Reddit, and other blogs and sites will be going black to show what they think the internet will be like if SOPA is passed.  You can customize your own site to go black in solidarity with them by using the code found here.  However, Twitter will not be joining them.  Although it is against SOPA, the CEO, Dick Costolo, thinks the blackout is a “foolish” initiative.

According to this article on the Political Animal blog for Washington Monthly, SOPA is now facing opposition from the White House and key backers have agreed to drop part of their provisions.  This could come, in part, because of the vocal protests that have already happened. Is it still necessary to disrupt the information seeking of users around the world tomorrow?

What do you think?  Do you want to protest to your government representative? You can go here.  Do you just want to find a workaround to the blackout? Check out TIME’s tips in this article.

Want to read more about the issues surrounding the policing of piracy?  Check out the transcript of Cory Doctorow’s speech on The Coming War on General Computation, or watch the speech yourself on YouTube.  Or to go much, much deeper, check out these books from the library:

-Tessa, CLP-East Liberty

Have an animated Thanksgiving!

If you’re anything like me, you might crave some alone time away from the family this Thanksgiving holiday (or you may just want to skip out on helping with the dishes).  Here are some fun ways to occupy your time, allowing you to create your own animations, on your computer or smart phone.

Scratch

Scratch is a programming language developed by MIT “that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art — and share your creations on the web.”  It’s free to join and share things.  Once you create a Scratch project, people can interact with it or download and remix it.  For example, someone has made a calculator using Scratch!  You can also make games to play – there’s a gallery here.  And if you get stuck, there’s a Support page and Forums.

Flipnote

Unfortunately, this is only available as a Nintendo DSi program, but you can also browse and watch the Flipnotes that others have created using their DSi.  Since the program is available worldwide, there are many international Flipnotes, and it could be a fun way to practice your Japanese!

Still from a stopmotion animation creation by flickr user Regev Tovim

For those of you who took our Quick Flix workshops, taught by awesome people from Pittsburgh Filmmakers, I have some free Stopmotion and other animation programs!  These require some downloads and tutorials, but could take your filmmaking to the next level.

Animate Clay

This has how-to videos, a newsletter, video interviews with animators and free motion capture software for download. It was created by animator Mark Spess, who taught himself to do stop-motion and thought there should be a place online for fellow animators to learn and share their craft.

Clay Animator

This software is based on the Anasazi software from the Animate Clay website, and can work with a built in PC camera or digital camera connected to your PC.

Synfig

This is free 2-D animation software, “designed as powerful industrial-strength solution for creating film-quality animation using a vector and bitmap artwork. It eliminates the need to create animation frame-by frame, allowing you to produce 2D animation of a higher quality with fewer people and resources.”

Pencil

Unlike many of these programs, Pencil works with Macs as well as PCs, and can be used for traditional hand-drawn animation.  Here’s an example of something made with Pencil:

Blender

Blender can do 3-D rendering and is free and open source for all operating systems.  The effects in this movie were made using Blender:

Before you start out on your journey, you can always use your local library to do some basic research on making animation!

– Tessa, CLP – East Liberty

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