SOPA is one of two bills being considered by the US congress to prevent piracy and copyright infringement online. It is principally aimed at preventing illegal music and video downloads affecting the entertainment industry.
SOPA is an acronym for Stop Online Piracy Act. It is another one of those bills before the US congress that seem to be well-intentioned, but in reality, will cause devastation on the Internet. The devastating effect of SOPA could threaten the future of the Internet and cripple many of the websites you care about including Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and so on. The sister bill is PIPA, Protect-IP Act, which is also widely protested on the Web. If passed into law, the acts could cripple the free innovations that have graced life on the Internet.
Why We All Hate SOPA
Already, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Reddit, Kickstarter, Tumblr, Mozilla, AOL, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga, Scribd and many other websites have protested the bill. The reason everyone is protesting is very obvious – considering the intention of the bill, SOPA is very reasonable; but looking at the actions promulgated by the bill, the Internet is just about to lose all its sizzles and thrills.
SOPA will put power in the hands of companies to block the domain name of any website they presume is capable of encouraging copyright infringement. So, if a website is presumed to have contents that are piracy-friendly, the website domain can be blocked such that you won’t be able to visit the website directly from the domain name. However, you will still be able to visit the website via the numeric IP address.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help because downloaders of copyrighted contents will still be able to perpetuate their evil acts (through known IP addresses) whereas the entire site would have been blocked for the majority of their descent users. Worse still, very useful websites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube etc, can all be culprits of this devastating bill.
Here are four ways SOPA could handle supposed culprits.
- Order ISPs to change their Domain Name Servers against websites that may be promoting copyright infringements.
- Order search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo etc, to exclude culprit websites from search results
- Order payment processing portals like PayPal to shut down the accounts of culprits.
- Order advertisement providers e.g. Adsense to stop displaying ads on such websites and refuse to make payments.
However, domains that end in .net, .com and .org are under the US law and can easily be penalized (or rather are already being penalized) without these four rules.
Interestingly, opposition to SOPA has not been limited to the Web community. The Web is changing the way of life for many people, and another way of consuming entertainment is fast evolving; but SOPA appears to be freezing innovation by holding on to the norm. Key persons in the entertainment industry are beginning to realize that SOPA is actually an opposition to change. For example, Leah Kaufmann, who wrote “Obama Girl”, has written a theme song against SOPA called ‘Firewall’. A British rapper, Dan Bull, has also protested the bill.
So, what’s the point when the main proponents of SOPA are beginning to see how devastating the Act can be?
If you have some understanding of how devastating this bill can be, you need to start acting within your means. If you have a contact person in the congress, let the person understand the bill is extremely counterproductive. Alternatively, you can spread the awareness of SOPA on your blog, social networks, forums and so on. Let others know the bill is about to be passed, and we all have to stand together against it.
“Firewall” – Don’t Let Our Government Ruin The Internets
SOPA Cabana – by Dan Bull
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