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.
Guilty by association?
Exactly. According to Gigi Sohn, the president of Public Knowledge, anyone “writing about or even linking to a site suspected of containing some infringing content could be subject to legal action.”
So does that mean posting on Facebook could get you in trouble?
Posting anywhere could get you in trouble, as well as Facebook/Tumblr/etc. Sharing cool content could become a risky business, which is why the online world is up in arms over the bill.
Doesn’t that inhibit the flow of information?
Yes, it does. In fact, the bill has been compared to the Great Firewall of China as it imposes severe censorship restrictions on the internet.
But wouldn’t that kill sites like Youtube?
It certainly could. Consider that even amateur remix works like YouTube song covers and movie mashups would become illegal.
Doesn’t this take things too far?
Yes, it does, which is why companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, eBay, and Mozilla are threatening to leave the Chamber of Commerce.
Is there a better way?
In this case, without a doubt. While everyone agrees that Internet Piracy is a bad thing and it should be stopped, solving big media’s woes at the expense of legitimate online businesses and the general public is just shooting yourself in the foot.
Why should I care?
Although by this point it should be obvious, at the very least you should care because this bill has the potential to get you into big trouble for something as simple as sharing a cool picture with your friends. Where is the 1st Amendment?
What is List25’s stance?
What is your stance?
We’ve told you where we stand, now its your turn. Don’t let us bias you though. Do your research and then formulate your own opinion. You better do it quick though…you might have to keep it to yourself soon.