As an individual who spends some decent amount of time on the interwebs I thought I should take a look at the recent developments on SOPA and PIPA. As a consumer of digital content and a creator of web media its vastly important that we understand how these laws will affect our interactions with the internet in general.
First lets talk about what SOPA allows content owners, as well as the US Department of Justice, the ability to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. This at first can sound like a noble cause, I believe the problem becomes in how vaguely the law is written. The problem is blanket authority to shut down websites, including websites with user generated content (think Facebook, YouTube, etc) if they infringe on their owned content. Right now there is protection to user generated content providers, under a “safe harbor” clause in legislation passed in 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This clause gives website owners a chance to remove infringing content in a “timely” manner, after receiving a notice from content owners. SOPA would override this clause and hold sites accountable for content generated by their users, giving the government opportunity to block the site all together not just the infringing content.
PIPA or The PROTECT IP Act is similar in that it also wants to give the government the ability to shut down infringing websites, including those registered outside the US. Again rising the idea of blocking domains from the internet. Essentially the bill wants the US to alternate the DNS list to exclude those infringing companies. This proposed idea is sited by several internet tech gurus as something that would hurt not only internet security but also make the internet less universal.
The idea that censorship could be enacted on this level on something that we have grown up with is baffling. The internet has been a something that gives us all unfettered access to all types of information both good and bad. The idea that this could be policed and regulated in this fashion is a scary future and one that I don’t want to see happen.
Certain companies are expressing their discontent for the bill stating it can stifle innovation and creation, pillars of the internet. Reddit.com has been a strong voice of opposition to the bill stating it will go black for a day, Jan. 18th. Even League of Legends playing congressman, Rep. Polis, is coming out against the bill directing people to get more involved in the conversation at keepthewebopen.com.
In short, I encourage all of you to read up and understand how this can affect you logging on to and digesting the internet on a day to day basis.
SOPA Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act