The Stop Online Piracy Act was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011. The proposed bill, also known as SOPA, allows the U.S. Department of Justice to act against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.
With the SOPA, Congress, at the push of the big media, is trying to censor the global Internet in the name of preventing media piracy.
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google says that “while we support the overal effort to fight online piracy, this legislation has significant impact on our industry” and that “the bill sets a precedent in favor of Internet censorship and could jeopardize our nation’s cybersecurity.”
Much of the push for the SOPA bill is from both the U.S Chamber of Commerce and the big media who wish to destroy rogue websites – a term for websites that link to illegal content and allow copyright infringement.
In a statement to The New York Times, the Chamber of Commerce had this to say:
“Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.”
Those same individuals likened rogue websites to child porn.
So who is against SOPA? Well, pretty much everyone. Internet titans such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Yahoo, AOL and Wikipedia have all proclaimed their hesitance against filtering the internet.
In a letter to the key members of the U.S. Senate, these companies said that 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.”
You can think of SOPA as the Internet death penalty. It allows the U.S. attorney general to, in essence, shut down any website that infringes on copyrights. In the case that the website is offshore (like most are), the attorney general could force Internet providers to block access to those websites. This bill could cause many websites such as YouTube, Google and Wikipedia to either change or close down based upon the content that they share.
Could you imagine what the internet would be like without the likes of some of these massively popular websites? You might not have to soon enough.
Those same Internet titans are said to be discussing a coordinated blackout of services to demonstrate the potential effect SOPA would have on the internet. These same rumors were only strengthened by Markham Erickson, executive director of trade association NetCoalition, who told FoxNews that “a number of companies have had discussions about blacking out services.”
According to Erickson, no one is in the dark about how serious a blackout would be:
This type of thing doesn’t happen because companies typically don’t want to put their users in that position. The difference is that these bills so fundamentally change the way the Internet works. People need to understand the effect this special-interest legislation will have on those who use the Internet.
Mozilla, which creates the Firefox Web browser have responded by creating a page on their website saying: ”Protect the Internet: Help us stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation.” It warns that “your favorite Web sites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim.”
While the media and its allies in Congress are billing this Legislation as a new way to prevent online infringement, free speech advocates (such as us) believe that this initiative will discourage creative expression as well as compromise Internet security by forcing the average user to alternative ISPs that will offer access to the entire internet (not just the censored U.S. version).
This will no doubt lead to even graver issues. There IS a solution to this problem, but this is not it.
As Barack Obama said:
The more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable. They can begin to think for themselves.
I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free internet — or unrestricted internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.
UPDATE: For a detailed but simple explanation of SOPA and what it means for all of us (in video form), watch the video below created by Fight for the Future.