On January 24, 2012 The Stop Online Piracy Act, most commonly referred to as SOPA, will be brought to Congress along with the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. SOPA will allow copyright holders to seek court orders against websites accused of facilitating copyright infringement.
This bill would make the streaming of unauthorized copyrighted material a crime with a penalty of up to five years in jail. Websites prosecuted of violation could be barred from using payment facilitators such as PayPal, blocked from search engines, and requiring Internet providers to block access to the site.
Much of the language included in SOPA is very vague and potentially harmful to those who do not completely understand the implications of the bill.
Who supports and opposes SOPA? There has been much controversy surrounding the supporters and opponents of the act. The supporters mostly consist of traditional media outlets, associated organizations, and brands that heavily rely on these outlets. The opponents are majorly tech brands and social media websites.
The largest controversy around SOPA supporters occurred on December 22, 2011 when Go Daddy stated that it supported SOPA. This prompted users across the web to boycott the domain hosting, resulting in the loss of 16,000 domains, including all Wikimedia domains. Soon after, Go Daddy rescinded its support.
Here is a brief list of some of the most prominent SOPA Supporters and Opponents: SOPA Supporters:
- Estée Lauder
- Huffington Post
Many Internet companies have spoken about a coordinated blackout protest. So far, both Reddit and The Cheezburger Network have both commited to blackout for 12 hours on January 18th. There has been talk about Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Wordpress’s involvement in this blackout but there has been no official statement.
Why support or oppose?
Support: Yet, is it possible that SOPA is not all bad? SOPA’s primary goal is protect intellectual property, and in turn protect jobs and revenues for those who legally own such property. Many claim that this will actually help American jobs in the long run because more individuals will be encouraged to generate new writings, research, product and services. This concept of job creation is debatable at best. Yet, what is not debatable is that many organizations that are threatened by piracy employ millions of people.
Another argument in support of SOPA is the protection against counterfeit drugs. Pfizer spokesman, John Clark explains that consumers cannot distinguish the difference between legitimate and counterfeit online pharmacies. This portion of the law would support laws by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Controlled Substance Act that make it illegal to ship prescription drugs from foreign pharmacies.
Oppose: It is said that SOPA is an act of censorship and is the death of the internet as we know it. Critics say that it is a true violation of the American spirit, a major violation of the first amendment and a “cure that is worse than the disease”.
SOPA would have drastic effects on everyone’s favorite social networks. Websites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Tumblr will have to monitor every item posted on their website to ensure that none of these posts contain copyright infringement. For example, YouTube could be shut down if someone uploads a pirated music video. It is inevitable that many of these websites will fail if SOPA is passed.
Critics of the bill believe that it is a large threat to all web-related business. It is also said to greatly threaten the involvement of venture capitalists because of increased hesitance due to possible legal liabilities. In an interview done by Booz & Company, 100% of venture capitalists and angel investors said they would stop funding digtal companies if SOPA passes. Between the websites that will be shut down due to violations, the websites that will be unable to survive the increased cost of business due to regulating all content, and the debilitating nature of beginning a new web based business, SOPA could be the devastating end to the tech industry.
In conclusion None of us can be sure exactly what will result from this bill on the off chance that is passed. It is believed that if the bill passes through congress, that the White House will not approve it.