Wednesday’s blackout of over ten thousand sites small and large has got everyone chatting about SOPA. But what is SOPA? And will it lead to the total destruction of the internet we know and love?
SOPA is The Stop Online Piracy Act, a law going up the “series of tubes” also known as Congress. It was introduced by Senator Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and co-sponsored by both Democrat and Republican members alike.
What does SOPA do?
SOPA gives the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders the right to get court orders against websites, foreign and domestic. Many Senators, large companies and associations like Visa, Random House, Pfizer and the Church Music Publishers’ Association (click here to see the list) were behind the bill, pushing it through with their regular powerhouse combination of lobbying and campaign funding.
What does this mean for big businesses like Warner Brothers?
Well, if someone were to upload a torrent onto a website any studio can demand that Google to remove it from search results. They can also demand that payment processing sites like PayPal be prohibited from transferring funds to that site, effectively crippling the site. ISPs must also prevent access to these banned sites. Websites will evaporate from search results and from viewers’ eyes.
This might not sound like a big deal, especially for those against freely exchanging property rights, but the bills implications go much further:
SOPA supersedes laws that every sovereign country has regarding property rights. It basically cuts them off at the search engine or monetary source, especially if the money passes through the U.S. network. Any company within the U.S. can be penalized for working with a website-non-grata.
Secondly, the only thing that a company needs to do is simply type a letter. Their is no judicial oversight required. All IP owners need is a letter in “good faith,” a piece of paper that could effectively shout down any website, small or large. But in most cases the “Vigilante Provision” can be used by search engines and payment processing companies, cutting them off after five days, even without a letter.
SOPA (and its sister bill PIPA) could effectively give any search engine the right to proactively shut down a site.
How will SOPA effect the average internet user?
The average internet user will be effected in many different ways. This law could quite literally end everything that we love about the net, from sharing links on Facebook to YouTube videos of people singing copyrighted music in the shower. We should be weary when senators say this is only for major copyright infringement. SOPA and its sister bill PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) could effect any link you wish to share.
Why should you care about SOPA?
SOPA could end the spirit of the internet, the entrepreneurship, the reason why you love surfing the net so much. The innovation that gave birth to the internet could now be killed before its conception. It is a dangerous bill that gives the big players too much power to shut down smaller sites. It takes away freedom of choice that makes the internet so remarkably vast and amazing.
And that video you been thinking about making of you dancing the zombie to Micheal Jackson’s Thriller could be taken down immediately. SOPA is a imagination and fun killer. Giving the internet so many rules YouTube might become a graveyard of empty censored videos.
Was the blackout effective?
While SOPA is a dangerous bill, anti-sopa websites like Wikipedia, Mozilla, Google and others defended their position without campaign funds or a strong lobbying group like the motion picture industry. They did it by applying the power of mass online protest (i.e. 2 million tweets against SOPA). It was only a matter of hours before senators started backing down, fearing an imminent backlash.
They should have seen this coming. The internet, after all, is fueled by people who like freedom of choice and freedom of movement. The fight is not over, but for the time being SOPA is shelved.