25 Things You Need To Know About SOPA

Posted by on December 27, 2011

Most of you have probably at least heard the term “SOPA” recently. If you haven’t, its ok, we can still tell you what it is without getting shutdown. Thats right, the Stop Online Piracy Act, while seemingly noble and revolutionary has been just barely missing the 1st amendment with its misguided bullets. So, in order to enlighten the general population and help create an army of well-informed voters, we have compiled a list of things you need to know about SOPA.

What is SOPA?

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011. It is intended to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight piracy online, especially from rogue websites located overseas.



Big media has been trying for years to curb piracy of copyrighted material. This is by no means the first bill of this type to be proposed.


Why all of the attention then?

Although SOPA belongs to a long line of anti-piracy bills, its broad provisions and harsh penalties are creating a scare among legitimate small businesses online.


Who is behind it?

Most of its support comes from large media companies like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).


Who is opposed to it?

Several tech and consumer groups, as well as Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are taking a stand against it. The groups include the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA).


What sort of legislation is currently in place?

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) passed in 1998 currently offers protection to copyright holders.


How does the current legislation work?

Any copyright holder that suspects a website is using his or her content without permission may contact that site (like Youtube) and ask them to take it down. Those sites must take the content down right away. If it is determined, however, that the content is legitimate it can go back up.


Is the current system broken?

While this system works for legitimate sites like Youtube and List25, the SOPA sponsors are claiming that the bill will go after “rogue” sites that try to dodge US copyright law.


Do these “rogue” sites really cause that much of a problem?

According to Chris Dodd, the CEO of the MPAA, “We need to spread the message in the digital community and in the entertainment community that these activities (online piracy) hurt working Americans—and that we will not tolerate them.” Internet piracy costs US companies about $135 billion every year.


So, SOPA would be a boost to the economy?

Chris Dodd’s colleague, Cary Sherman, the CEO of the RIAA said, “this bill is a first step towards a brighter day when these rogue offshore websites can no longer duck accountability under U.S. laws, all the while providing a critical boost to the marketplace for legal digital music services.”


Why are people opposed to it then?

The detractors expressed concern over the fact that it “puts lawful U.S. Internet and technology companies at risk by creating new liabilities, opening the door for vague new technology mandates, and imposing significant costs on small businesses.”


So, it would actually hurt the economy?

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), SOPA would break the internet, kill job creation, and potentially stop the innovation of the next twitter or tumblr.


Really? It could do all of that?

Well, technically yes. The wording is vague and the penalties are steep so as with any such legislation, people are scared that there may be a lot of potential for abuse.


What are the penalties?

To start off with, jail time with a maximum sentence of 5 years is now on the list.


Don’t pirates belong in jail though?

Sure, or at least a fine, but remember what we said about vague wording…even being associated with an infringing site may be enough for the government’s hammer to come down on your head.

David Pegg


After helping found the United Nations, the United States, and United Airlines, David consigned himself to a transient life of writing lists and sleeping on park benches.

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  • marvin nubwaxer

    26. it looks dead for now but like a zombie it’ll come back.

  • ‘Mikey Burgmeier’

    “Consider that even amateur remix works like Youtube song covers and movie mashups would become illegal.”

    If something already is infringing, then it can’t become illegal. It already would be illegal prior to this bill becoming law.

  • AJBarnes

    The RIAA and MPAA say we lose BILLIONS from people stealing the overpriced and underdistributed content of the companies they represent. They are buying off Congress to pass these draconian laws so they don’t have to change their failing business model. They have resisted almost every attempt to modernize and find new ways of distributing their content. They’re locked in their old paradigm and make up fake numbers of how much they’re losing.

    Yet, the companies they represent are more profitable every year, raking in billions of dollars because they don’t have to compete and they don’t want to compete. Their whole business model is to keep things the way they were.

    If we made the same assumptions about auto theft as they do about their content, then we could say that Detroit is losing BILLIONS of dollars to car thieves. Don’t you know that for every car stolen, they have lost a sale? So, following the MPAA and RIAA logic, we should make car theft illegal so we would sell those cars and the industry could make BILLIONS more in profit. Yaah, doesn’t work that way. Not every downloaded file would be purchased at the current price level. And there is no chance the prices will drop because they do everything they can to prevent any competition. That keeps prices high and profits HUGE.

    I don’t feel sorry for them. Like the buggy-whip makers at the turn of the century, they need to close their doors and find another business to be in.

  • Brian

    in my book copyright falls under private law and the government should stay the hell out of it, if a company want to sue someone for infringement let them do so on their own bill and not government’s.

    it is abuse of tax payers dollars to even talk about this in the senate.

  • upsonp

    I agree 100% with everything except this from point 4, “While everyone agrees that Internet Piracy is a bad thing and it should be stopped”. If everyone agreed “piracy” was a bad thing, then why is it such a big problem?

    I say “piracy” in quotes because the term implies sinking ships and stealing booty. I believe the term originates from big media as a way to make copying content seem less moral. That being said most people see no issue with copying content. As an example, I buy a CD and copy a song from it to my IPod, which by the way is a violation of the DMCA mentioned in the article. Most reasonable people would also agree that there wouldn’t be an issue with me letting my brother listen to or make a copy of that song from my IPod. Media companies would have us believe otherwise. They’d also have us believe they’re losing a fortune and that they’re going broke because of it, despite the fact they’re posting record profits in the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS.

    • Casey

      Exactly. Big media is making it seem like without SOPA they won’t be able to put food on the table. I mean come on, these are people who are clearing MILLIONS of dollars a year. If for some reason piracy is so rampant that a well established musician can’t feed his/her family, then we’ve got bigger problems on our hands.

  • X

    I disagree that piracy is bad. While not as in depth as a full study, when researching the topic for my bachelors, there was an obvious correlation between Napster and music profits. As Napster grew, so did music sales. When Napster shutdown, Music sales followed trend almost exact.

  • L

    You should try reading the bill, and paying attention to the fact that it explicitly states the only websites that can be blocked from access under the promulgations of the bill are those operating in foreign countries.

    This clearly means youtube.com, which is owned and operated by a California corporation, can be shut down. Get real.

    • upsonp

      The main problem with this bill is it’s a bunch of politicians, who don’t understand the internet, being paid off by large corporations to make a law that will let the corporations take down any and all content they deem “infringing”. Whether it is or not. It essentially gives large companies the right to censor any and all web content.

      As a web developer for a large organization that deals with global climate change and research this directly effects my work. The key is anyone can issue a take down notice, whether content is infringing or not. My organization would have to take down the content of issue and then it would be up to us to go to court and prove the content isn’t infringing.

      More simply put, I post “Sony Online was hacked yesterday and my credit card information was stolen” on my Facebook page. Sony issues a take down to Facebook, which then MUST remove my comment. Do you think Facebook is going to go to court and spend who knows how many thousands of dollars to have my comment reinstated? I doubt it.

      You think this bill couldn’t be used to shut down youTube. If United airlines could issue take down notices do you really think something like United Breaks Guitars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo) would every have gone viral!? Most likely not and as a result there would have been no repercussions for how badly luggage get treated by the airline. Even worse I could spend five years in jail for just referencing that video in this post. Seriously does that sound fair?

      Please learn how the internet works and how this bill is terrible for freedom of speech and consumer rights before it’s too late and we all lose our voice.

      • Amy

        United Breaks Guitars is NOT an example of copyright infringement. Sorry

        • upsonp

          Here’s the rub. United only needs to CLAIM it’s copyright infringement. It’s up to the author of the song to prove it’s not. United could have him tied up in court for years and financially drain him. In the mean time YouTube would have to take the video down.

          The way copyright infringement cases need to work is the complainant should FIRST prove the author is infringing.

          It’s all about who the burden of proof lies with.

          • Amy

            Can you post a link to the bill that shows where it says that?

          • upsonp

            The problem is the wording of the bill is too vague, there is no one clause “burden of proof” clause in the bill, but if you do a quick Google search you’ll find dozens of pages that clearly outline concerns such as the burden of proof issue.

            Although I’m guessing your just trolling here, anyone that wasn’t just looking for an argument would have done one quick search.

          • Amy

            Your assumption that I’m just “trolling” or looking for an argument is obnoxious and false. I am genuinely interested in understanding these bills and was curious about the details you mentioned. However, I’ve done several searches and I can only find the interpretations and paraphrasing of others. I have not been able to find a copy of the original bill which would allow me to formulate my own opinion.

            On a side note, your accusation should have been written “you’re” not “your” trolling.

          • upsonp

            If you’re genuinely interested, I found a PDF of the bill. It was one of the first links under the overview section on the Wikipedia page. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.3261:

            Have fun reading.

      • Robson

        This entire topic is cosfuning. Both parties are right on their slant of this issue, kind of. Internet companies already use online restriction to sites. Have you ever seen the little yellow bar at the top? My Internet firewall, Norton, would over power my web browser because the site that I was using wasn’t legitimate, or so Norton deemed so. I would have to rework my settings in my firewall and computer to allow me to Accept, the access to the site, which could cause viruses to my computer. And of course it did. I know that this sounds like a conspiracy, but this is true for Hewlett Packard (I know from experience). The computer is ruined within a year of using the web browser for illegal downloading, then in a year I have to purchase a new one. I can guarantee that if American’s were not allowed to use our computer’s for what we want, we would not be able to put so much on it and ruin the hardware. In turn, I can guarantee there will be a drop in sales with consumer grade computers. So, I am interested in what computer companies have to say about this problem. But on the other hand, free speech online? That’s hardly the problem. That’s just sugar coating the issue. The problem is people not making enough money. They don’t care what you say or how you say it. You can say what you want, you can download what you want, you can look at what you want, but there’s a price for everything. If you build it, they will come. What’s going to happen from all this is internet companies are going to jack up the prices, (more than the prices they are raping us with now), and then everyone can be happy. Its going to be like advertising companies and web browsers. The companies will keep track of computer web browsing, and what your looking at will define a price from internet companies. Thus, if any of the cry baby publishing companies own rights to content, the internet companies will give a portion of their money to those other companies. Its a win-win, and that’s why we have Occupy Wall Street. Because we the consumer, can’t get ahead, only major corporations can. Oh, what’s great about this is, at least they will have an acceptance agreement but who reads those anyway.