What Exactly is SOPA?

 

Are you worried about SOPA? Well, you should be. Whether or not have a site that hosts pirated content SOPA and PIPA could set precedents about the way we use the Internet and not just the technophiles like myself, but for all Americans.

What Is SOPA And Why Should I Care?

SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act, was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas in the fall of this 2011 to prevent copy infringement.

Laws preventing online piracy in America aren’t new. The first law came out in 1998 with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Remember Napster and Pirate Bay? These are just two sites that have been taken down in an effort to keep people from downloading digital goods. The difference with SOPA the current laws are who is considered responsible.

Under our current laws, copyright owners have to contact the infringing sites’ webmaster, telling them they have illegal content that needs to be taken down. If the webmaster agrees it’s over and said video/image/soundbite is removed, if the site owner disagree with the claim they go to court and have it settled by a judge. But under SOPA the accuser can have the Justice Department force search engines to remove these offending sites from their SERPs. They can also go straight to IPSs and request that all traffic be blocked to the site. That means that if you are accused you’re website will be invisible to one of the largest internet consumers in the world. So if you have, I don’t know… a video of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech on your site to commemorate his birthday and Sony just happens to owns the rights to MLK they can have your website blocked.

User generated websites like Youtube, Reddit, and Facebook get millions of weekly uploads  cannot possible police every single image and could be blacklisted. The current model allows for webmasters to remove offending content when they know about it but with the amount of use that these sites get it would be unrealistic for webmasters to catch every possible infringement. This inability to effective police their sites would probably get them blacklisted in America. Check out the original SOPA Bill to learn more.

And PIPA?

PIPA is a light version of SOPA; same bill less calories. PIPA was created by the Senate, while SOPA was created by the House of Representatives. PIPA doesn’t have the search engine removal bit, SOPA does. SOPA has some protection for the wrongly accused, while PIPA doesn’t. There are some minor
differences but they are still pretty similar.

Who Supports It And Why?

SOPA I can't hear you

Supporters of SOPA like the idea of it because they claim that pirated media is costing them a ton of money. Companies like Time Warner, movie production studios and major records labels say that illegally downloaded content has cost them $250 billion a year. Whether that amount is true or not,

I can’t say, but companies say that if the government takes more aggressive steps to protecting their work they will stop bleeding cash.

Opponents of SOPA say that this kind of shoot-first-ask-questions-later tactic will ruin the Internet. Not because pirating is so important to us but that blocking traffic without due process undermines our liberties. It also puts the larger websites at the greatest risk. Opponents like Google, Yahoo!, Twitter,
Facebook, Wikipedia and a few 1000 others are also banning together to stop the bill from going through. Today was the height of the SOPA protests with many notable websites blacking out their content for the cause. I’m not sure if this will persuade supporters of the bill but it’s definitely making them pay attention.

Will SOPA Really Go Through?

I honestly can’t say. It would be incredibly surprising to me if SOPA went through but stranger things have happened. With the entire Internet in an uproar I’m sure that the bill introduced in October is not what gets voted on but there is a lot of pressure coming from the producers of Warm Bodies and Akira. The bill was going strong, took a break earlier this week but co-supporters have vowed to not back down on SOPA so we can’t call it yet.

SOPA is an example of where the Internet could end up. Even if the bills are defeated the ideas behind them could live on in congress.

I’ll end this blog with a quote from Sue Gardner of the Wikimedia Foundation

“The reality is that we don’t think SOPA is going away, and PIPA is still quite active. Moreover SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. All around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation intended to fight online piracy and regulate the internet in other ways that hurt our freedoms. Our concern extends beyond SOPA and PIPA: they are just part of the problem. We want an Internet to remain free and open everywhere for everyone”