Curious what is this “SOPA/PIPA” everyone all over the internet has been talking about for the last few weeks?
In this time’s post, I want to increase awareness to SOPA/PIPA — What they are, how they will affect you, and why you need to care.
What is SOPA/PIPA?
Let’s begin with the bill that came first. PIPA stands for Protect IP Act, and was first introduced to the U.S. Senate on May 12, 2011 by Senators Patrick Leahy, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley. It is also good to take note that PIPA is a re-written legislation, the original being the failed to pass Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) of 2010.
PIPA, if passed, will give U.S. corporations and the government the right to seek affirmative legal action with any website that they see as enabling copyright infringement whether of U.S. origin or not. Here is a breakdown of all that they will have the power to do.
- Force U.S. internet providers to block access to websites deemed as enablers of copyright infringement
- Seek legal action by suing search engines, blog sites, directories, or any site in general to have the black listed sites removed from their website
- Will be able to force advertising services on infringing websites, and those supporting of them, to remove them from their advertising accounts
- Companies will also have the power to sue any new websites that get started after this bill is passed, if they believe that they are not doing a good job of preventing infringement on your website
Stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, it is a bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Represenative Lamar Smith on October 26, 2011. In similarity with PIPA, SOPA is a build on a previous legislation. This legislation being the PRO-IP Act of 2008.
SOPA, if passed, will work in conjunction with PIPA. As described by such entities as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, SOPA is nothing more so than the U.S. government and private corporations black list. Here is a breakdown of the power given to the government and private corporations.
- The U.S. Attorney General can now seek a court order that would force search engines, advertisers, DNS providers, servers, and payment processors from having any contact with allegedly infringing websites
- It will allow private corporations to create their own personal hit lists composed of websites they feel are breaking their copyright policies, ironically this doesn’t have any odd feelings of a legal mafia at all. These companies will be able to directly contact a website’s payment processors a notice to cut all off payment involvement with the targeted website. This payment processors and website of question will then have five days to act before it is simply taken down.
- Payment processors will have the power to cut off any website they work with, as long as they can provide a strong reason of why they believe this site is violating copyrights
I don’t understand! Can you explain me with easier words?
To put it simply, any website can be blocked from the internet if they think there was a copyright violation. No actual violation is neccessary for the block to be in place while they do an “investigation.”
The problem is that the actual limits of the definition of copyright infringement itself is vague. Let’s say, I make a blog about graphic design and posted examples of corporation logos for reference, learning material, or just give it a praise for being a good design. Then, the corporation saw it and don’t like it being on the site, an accusation has been filed to me! The vagueness of the definition of copyright infringement itself makes this law easy to manipulate and any kind of accusation can be made and found true.
Also, even a few links to other sites that infringe copyright – even if those sites aren’t yours – are enough to block a site full of legal contents.
Not in USA? Don’t feel safe, as most websites had their roots in USA. Furthermore, USA can be considered a benchmark for most European countries, so if this bill passes, don’t be surprised if many countries are following it.
How does this affect you?
- Blogging and social network activities will be greatly impacted.
As mentioned in the example above, if the bill passes, you can never be sure if what you did infringe nobody’s copyright. Also, outgoing links to another site which infringe copyright might also get yours blocked as well. In other words, you can never feel the same liberty you had when you are going to post something.
- Websites that hold user contents can be taken down.
Sites like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, 9gag, and many others seemed likely to shut down if the bill becomes law.
- Say Goodbye to innovation.
These acts are stopping developers from coming up with the next big thing in the online market that could change how we use the internet. Let’s say that these acts were around back when the internet was started, how many of the most popular sites would still have come into fruition. There would be no Facebook, YouTube, MediaFire, SoundCloud, Twitter, DropBox, or any other site that can be targeted as a place where online piracy could take place. Is it even possible to think about what the internet would be like without sites like this?
- A child singing a song? Sue her!
It’s quite obvious that almost none of the people on sites like YouTube has been given permission by record label executives to sing their favorite song and proceed to post it to a video-sharing site. If they want, they could make the site where the child posted the video on will be put under pressure to resolve this issue, or face their site being put on the blacklist. This child, and her family, could also very well face legal action with either the site or the record label the song that was sung has copyrighted.
- Web-related business will also be heavily impacted.
With the rapidly growing internet civilization, countless lives had made their living through web business, whether as engineers or online shops. Now, with many big sites have big potential to be taken down, many of these people’s lives will also be affected. Not just that, the economy will also slow down.
What can we do?
The House Judiciary Committee will be voting on SOPA, and likely passing it January 24th. Once the bill has been passed by the committe, it will be able to be passed at any time by the House of Representatives. The internet community has always been an active and vocal group about anything we diassaprove of, especially when it is hurting the overall internet experience. This is the time to now show this passion for what the community of professionals, and users, love by telling the U.S. government exactly how you feel. Below, you’ll find some helpful ways so you can become vocal about this presssing issue.
- Call Your State Senators
This is the most important thing anyone can do, because this is how your voice can be heard in the process. It is the Senators duty as an elected official to do what is right by, and listen to the will of the people who elected them. If they don’t hear the input from the people, then they’ll have no idea of how anyone feels. Americancensorship.org has a great tool that will help you find who your Senators are, their contact numbers, and get you right in touch with them. They also inform you of speaking points to mention in your conversation before calling.
- Inform Anyone You Know
Can you imagine how much stronger and effective the Occupy movement would have been if this happened a few years ago? It would’ve been a completely different playing field, and would have a lot more impact then what it already has on government officials. This movement couldn’t happen earlier because people were not informed and those that were just waited to see how things would affect them before deciding to take action. That philosophy has never worked, and will only lead to trying to get out of a disastrous situation you could have easily prevented.
- Sign Online Petitions
You don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to take charge here, online petitions is a great way to get a global reach on how people feel. The most important thing is that everyone is heard, in any shape or form.
- Stay Informed
Being unaware of what is going on is only allowing for acts like these to pass through without anyone knowing. Being an informed individual about what is going on in the political world, only makes you more capable of being an advocate for change in a positive fashion. Below you will find some links to good articles, and videos about SOPA and PIPA.
More about SOPA…