The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill, if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Presented to the House Judiciary Committee, it builds on the similar PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the corresponding Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act.
The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.
(Taken from Wikipedia, which itself will be "blacked out" on 18 January 2012 in opposition to SOPA and PIPA)
Sounds like a good thing, right? Online piracy, after all, is a Very Bad Thing, right? Well, this bill is equivalent to stomping on a roach with a nuclear bomb - not only overkill, but ultimately ineffective. Coders are already hard at work creating software to circumvent the teeth of this law, DNS blocking - not for piracy's sake, but to protect legitimate Internet use that this bill would curb if signed into law. In the end, all it will do is censor the Internet. China, some Arab countries and Australia, among others already do this. If SOPA/PIPA pass, you can add the good old U.S.A. to that list!
Roadgeeks, planning on putting up that video of the next leg of your trip? Clinched another Interstate and want the world to see?
Not so fast.
You're likely using copyrighted music in that video. Kiss the vid goodbye and expect possible prosecution. Not in the United States? It doesn't matter. Now, some of the provisions are okay in theory such as making copyright holders liable for damages if they misrepresent the fact that a site's dedicated to infringement, but as a whole, the bill is just too toxic to live.
As of yesterday, Congress shelved SOPA indefinitely, meaning it would require a supermajority for it to be considered again - the same supermajority required to override a presidential veto, I'll add. (Never thought I'd say this as a die-hard liberal, but thank you Eric Cantor for shelving it!) PIPA, its sibling in intent, still lives on in the U.S. Senate. The White House has called both bills dead on arrival as written and assured they'd be vetoed if they hit the President's desk.
That's not good enough, though. The thought that these bills could be revived once public furor dies down is very disconcerting. Many across the Internet have been letting Congress know exactly what they think of these bills. As long as the possibility exists that these bills could be revived, however, we are not safe. The Internet as we know it is not safe.
The Internet is striking back on January 18th. Many sites, including some major ones such as Reddit and Wikipedia will be "blacking out" on that day in protest of the bill and to show what could become permanent if bills like these become law.
I'm imploring that anyone that cares about the freedom an open Internet represents also pledge to black out their sites on January 18th... but don't stop there. Black out your social media as well. Do you blog, Tweet or use Facebook? Pledge not to on January 18th. Look up the list of corporate entities that still support the bill and deny them your business on that day, and tell them just WHY you're denying them said business. Don't buy any albums or see any movies either -the RIAA and MPAA not only support these bills, but helped to write them! Speak with your voice AND your wallet!
Once January 18th has come and gone, though, it will not be time to let up the pressure or claim victory. We the people must continue to make our voices heard until Congress in no uncertain terms gives up on trying to censor the Internet!