SOPA: What You Need to Know
Did you happen to see the Google logo on the search engine’s homepage yesterday? If not, here’s what it looked like:
Did you try to look something up on Wikipedia only to see a black screen? You can thank SOPA for both of those blackouts.
SOPA, which stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, is an anti-piracy bill that is working its way through congress. It was introduced into the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, and, if made into a law, would allow U.S. law enforcement, as well as intellectual property holders, to sue foreign websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Think about how the Chinese government can order blocks on websites…that could be the right of the U.S. government if SOPA passes.
Brian Barrett does a great job explaining SOPA on gizmodo.com, and offers up this easy-to-understand example:
If Warner Bros., for example, says that a site in Italy is torrenting a copy of The Dark Knight, the studio could demand that Google remove that site from its search results, that PayPal no longer accept payments to or from that site, that ad services pull all ads and finances from it, and—most dangerously—that the site’s ISP prevent people from even going there. Perhaps the most galling thing about SOPA in its original construction is that it let IP owners take these actions without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off.—gizmodo.com
The bill makes any unauthorized streaming of content a crime. The maximum penalty is five years in jail for 10 infringements in a 6-month period. Supporters of the bill (House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar S. Smith, R-Texas, and his bipartisan group of 12) say it protects intellectual property, jobs, and revenue. Opponents of the bill says it violates the First Amendment and is Internet censorship.
The most recent version of the bill is a little softer than it’s harsh predecessor, which gave Google or PayPal five days to take the offending site down or challenge the claim in court. Now the five-day window is a little more flexible. But companies like Visa and PayPal (who process payment) and YouTube (content providers) don’t need a letter from the accuser, claiming that a site has infringed on its copyright—they can just shut the “offending” site down.
Don’t think SOPA will affect you? Here’s something to think about if you have any personal information stored digitally:
Because while Facebook and Twitter have the financial wherewithal to stave off anti-circumvention shut down notices, the smaller sites you use to store your photos, your videos, and your thoughts may not. If the government decides any part of that site infringes on copyright and proves it in court? Poof. Your digital life is gone, and you can’t get it back. —gizmodo.com
It’s been said that it is unlikely that SOPA will pass—the White House is even against it—but crazier things have happened. The momentum behind the anti-SOPA movement hit hard yesterday, with sites (such as: Google, Wikipedia, BoingBoing, TwitPic, and WordPress) going dark yesterday. There is an anti-SOPA rally planned for New York City today.
Google is calling for people to sign a petition, urging Congress to vote no on SOPA on their landing page. Google states that SOPA “would censor the Web and impose harmful regulations on American business.”
There are effective ways to combat foreign “rogue” websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that have made the Internet such an important driver of American economic growth and job creation. Congress should consider alternatives like the OPEN Act, which takes targeted and focused steps to cut off the money supply from foreign pirate sites without making US companies censor the Web. —google.com
What do you think of the SOPA legislation?