As you probably saw today if you were surfing the Internet that some of your favorite Web sites looked different, or in some cases, weren’t working at all. This is because today is a formal protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act – SOPA.
The bill was announced back in October by Texas Rep. Lamar Smith and has since caused an uproar of angst and discontent from millions of Internet users.
Among the group the most high-profile list of supporters has been Google – who has put a big black censor box over their home page logo – and Wikipedia – who has gone completely black on its English language pages for the next 24 hours.
There are also street protests planned in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle – Occupy demonstrators will have to make room for a day.
So what is SOPA?
SOPA is an anti-piracy bill that will give content creators (i.e. movie studios and record labels) the power to target “rogue sites” – offshore or non-US Web sites that they deem to infringe on their intellectual property rights (It’s times like these I miss my Com classes in college. Impassioned debates abound today).
Owners have the extraordinary ability to demand that search engines take down that site from its search results, tell PayPal to no longer accept payments, block revenues, and even block users from having access to that ISP.
No actual hearing or court appearance is necessary. The only thing required is a letter in “good faith belief” that the “rogue sites” has infringed its content. They then have five days to abide or challenge in court and that site has to stay quarantined.
Who is opposed to SOPA?
The Internet industry, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia, and millions of Internet users. In a Nov. 15 letter to Congress written by a core of the Internet industry said SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.”
The risk to security is because SOPA will effectively under-cut security improvements known as DNSSEC. DNSSEC provides an end-to-end encryption from user to domain. This requires “Internet providers to redirect allegedly piratical domain names to, say, the FBI’s servers.” Other concerns are that SOPA won’t be effective and harm Internet functionality.
Another possible implication against SOPA is that it infringes on free speech. If a site has been charged and blacklisted it could threaten its right to free speech. Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor argued SOPA is unconstitutional because “an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”
Who supports SOPA?
The top organizations for SOPA are the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These industries have spent tens of millions on lobbyists for support of SOPA, and who was one of the biggest contributors to Rep. Lamar Smith’s campaign? The movie and music industry! Imagine that!
SOPA is already one of the most popular bills in Congress, and it looks as if some incarnation will get passed. But the groundswell of opposition to SOPA will absolutely be heard. Infringing on one’s rights of speech and security will be dealt with as they always have, with a voice of justice. The people will be heard.
Check out these sites to get your information on SOPA.