What is SOPA and how will that affect us?

Hundreds of websites such as Wikipedia, Mozilla, Craigslist, Google and Wired have stood up to fight against “SOPA” and have blacked out their websites, content and/or logo. Thousands were caught off-guard and left wondering what this “SOPA” is about, and how that’s going to affect them.




SOPA


S.O.P.A. or (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a bill in the United States of America proposed in 2011 to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. This bill includes the barring of advertising networks and payment facilities from doing business with allegedly infringing websites. It bars search engines from linking to the sites and requires ISP (internet service providers) to block access to the sites. Online streaming of such content would be criminalized with a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated in a letter to the editor of The New York Times: “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.” The MPAA has a section of its Web site devoted to rogue web sites. Jim Hood, the Democratic attorney general of Mississippi, and co-chair of a National Association of Attorneys General committee on the topic, recently likened rogue web sites to child porn.

Lobbyists (people who attempt to influence legislators’ decisions) for companies that rely on intellectual property copyright for revenue such as music record labels believe that this bill will protect the market and the industries, jobs, and people. The US President and legislators say that this “may kill innovation”. Opponents believe and state that requiring search engines to delete domain names will begin chaos and a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the web and violates the FIRST AMENDMENT.


Freedom of Speech implications of SOPA


SOPA’s opponents believe there are. New York Times called this bill as the “Great FIREWALL of America”. Section 103 of the bill says that for a website to be blacklisted, the site must be directed (?) at the US and that the owner “has promoted” acts that can infringe copyright.

A “US-directed website” was defined on SECTION 101:

(A) the Internet site is used to provide goods or services to users located in the United States;
(B) there is evidence that the Internet site or portion thereof is intended to offer or provide such goods and services (or) access to such goods and services (or) delivery of such goods and services to users located in the United States;
(C) the Internet site or portion thereof does not contain reasonable measures to prevent such goods and services from being obtained in or delivered to the United States; and
(D) any prices for goods and services are indicated or billed in the currency of the United States.

The bill would be unconstitutional because, if enacted, (according to Harvard professor Laurence Tribe), “an entire website containing THOUSANDS of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”

eWeek states that “The language of SOPA is so broad, the rules so unconnected to the reality of Internet technology and the penalties so disconnected from the alleged crimes that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use. The bill also has grave implications for existing U.S., foreign and international laws and is sure to spend decades in court challenges.”

Blacklisted and will potentially DELETE your entire digital life

SOPA would grant creators (the rich) extraordinary power over the web. Corporations and organizations, or the government would be allowed to order an ISP to block an entire website simply due to ALLEGATION that the site posted infringes content.

While Facebook and Twitter have the financial capabilities to stave off shut down notces, the smaller sites where you use to store photos, videos, and thoughts may not. SOPA includes an “anti-circumvention” clause which holds that telling people how to bypass SOPA is nearly as bad as violating its main provisions. If your tweets update links to The Pirate Bay etc, Twitter would be legally obligated to delete it. Same goes for YouTube, Tumblr, WordPress, and Google. If they let this pass, they could and would be facing shut down. SOPA will censor every online social outlet and prevent new ones from emerging.

PRO-SOPA


Organizations most vocal on lobbying SOPA are the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Other supporters include the National Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters.

The White House has come out strongly against it (read article here). Companies however PRO-SOPA have spent a huge amount of money pushing this bill and it remains a big issue in the House of Representatives. Here’s a list of legislators for and against this bill.

SOPA misunderstands the nature of the internet and portends huge financial and cultural losses. The internet was built on the same principles of freedom that the country was. It should be afforded to the same rights.

What are your thoughts on SOPA? Share them below!

Resources:
Wikipedia – Stop Online Piracy Act
CNET – How SOPA would affect you

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