Apocalypse 2012? Only if SOPA Passes. January 20, 2012
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard of the legislation being considered by the House of Representatives called SOPA. The Senate’s version, PIPA, also encompasses this Stop Online Piracy Act legislation.
The bills are intended to narrowly address the problem of piracy on foreign websites. Companies and the government have been trying to stop online piracy ever since Napster went viral. However, they’re going a step further than what many consider appropriate, or even constitutional.
What is SOPA?
The SOPA legislation states that “an Internet site is dedicated to the theft of U.S. property if…the site is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of, has only limited purpose or use other than, or is marketed by its operator or another acting in concert with that operator in use in, offering goods and services in a manner that engages in, enables, or facilitates…” acts of copyright infringement, intellectual property contracts, selling illegal goods, etc. The problem with this statement is defining the terms of “enabling” or “facilitating”. What does that mean why should this be a source of concern?
The SOPA legislation proposes that any website or company affiliated in any way with a website that they believe (emphasis on believe) is participating in illegal activity will be issued court warrants, shut down, and will be forced to cut ties from said illegal web property. We’re talking about websites and companies that are simply doing their job, such as:
• Search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)
• Ad networks
• Payment facilities (such as PayPal)
• Hosting companies (Domain name registration, etc.)
However, including the words “enable” or “facilitate” takes this control to another level.
For example: Many websites, whether it be a video library like YouTube, or news websites like CNN.com, offer open forums. Many individuals place links on those open forums to further emphasize the point they’re making in a comment. However, what if an individual links to a site that the American government deems illegal? The hosting website where that link can be found is, by definition of the SOPA legislation, facilitating illegal websites, and therefore should be terminated. YouTube, Ezine Articles, Huffington Post, Twitter, Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook… all of these websites have individuals with their own agendas writing and posting links to every type of website imaginable. This legislation is saying that the websites hosting these links should be penalized.
What we already have in place is a system where if illegal content was found on a site like YouTube then the government or any type of entity would send a notice telling hosting party to take down the content. However, this legislation shoots first and asks later by totally demobilizing any website deemed “questionable”.
In addition, the SOPA legislation also stipulates that the terminated (or “immobilized ”) website cannot sue the organization (the government) that closed them, even if it is found that the alleged illegal content falls within legal boundaries. Why? Because the government was not knowingly materially misrepresenting the violation.
For more information on what SOPA can actually do watch this video by Khan Academy. It’s 11 minutes long, by the end you will be worried about being arrested for enabling an illegal website .
What are People Doing to Stop SOPA?
Thousands of people have spoken out against the SOPA and PIPA legislation – 7 million signed Google’s protest according to The Washington Post.
Google’s black censor bar over their logo on Wednesday was a link to an online petition to stop this bill from passing. Of the 162 million people who saw Wikipedia’s black out page, 8 million of them reached out to their representatives through the Wikipedia links. The Fight for the Future nonprofit organization, who was behind the overall web movement, estimated 300,000 emails were sent to members of Congress.
On Jan. 12, the White House waded into the SOPA debate, posting a statement that said, “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote this anti-SOPA message on his Facebook page: “The Internet is the most powerful tool we have for creating a more open and connected world. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the Internet’s development. Facebook opposes SOPA and PIPA, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the Internet.”
Who is Sponsoring SOPA?
Although it seems like everyone is against SOPA there has to be a few people who actually in favor of it to reach the House and Senate floor. The movie and music industries and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business-lobbying group, back the legislation as a means to fight piracy by websites that operate outside the U.S.
However, due to the outcry by millions of American citizens many lawmakers are dropping their support. As of Friday morning (January 20th 2012) 13 lawmakers who co-sponsored this legislation withdrew their support, including Senator Marco Rubio (R-fl) who was one of the legislations key proponents.
The Link Builders do not support SOPA , PIPA, or the regulation of the concept of a free Internet.0