By: Scott Stein, Sr. Account Executive, Leonard & Finco Public Relations, Inc.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of the Internet, this week is a good example of just what can happen.

I was among the many, I assume, that really had no idea what the letters SOPA and PIPA stood for before this week. But the well-orchestrated 24-hour blackouts on websites like Wikipedia certainly got my attention and piqued my interest in these two pieces of federal legislation.

SOPA is the House bill that many believe is now dead, while PIPA is the Senate version that is losing support as I write this. While well-intentioned as vehicles to stop Internet piracy, the list of opponents who believe the bills would cause far more damage than good continues to grow.

Opponents point out that the main problem with the two piece of legislation is that the language is too vague. Many believe that the bills will actually do little to fight piracy, but the impact on legitimate social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube could be dramatic.

Under SOPA and PIPA, a website can get in trouble for any user content. Simply put, any sight that contains some content that infringes on a copyright could be shut down. Of course, most websites would likely self-police before it even gets to that point with the result that everyone would see less content which would dramatically change what we’ve come to expect from the Internet.

It’s a complicated issue with far-reaching implications. But until this week, I was in the dark on SOPA and PIPA. It took several key website going dark for just one day to get my attention.

Did the January 18th blackout get your attention too? What are your thoughts on SOPA and PIPA?