SOPA and PROTECT IP Act Threaten to Break the InternetPosted by Tiffany Wan
Perhaps the U.S. should change its motto from “Land of the Free” to “Land of Litigation.” A new bill introduced last month in the House (Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)) is looking to censor key aspects of the Internet as it relates to the entertainment industry. A Senate counterpart bill (the PROTECT IP Act) already passed earlier this year, but has been put on hold due to questions about its power to squelch free speech, innovation and economic growth. Originally introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and focused on snuffing out foreign sites that post intellectual property from the U.S., SOPA is taking broader aim at any websites that can be perceived as dealing in piracy. If SOPA passes, this would mean both the government and corporations would have the ability to censor any site deemed to be “dedicated to copyright infringement.”
The purported intent is to protect creativity and intellectual property rights; what threatens to take place instead appears to be the exact opposite, simply giving media conglomerates and the U.S. government license to censor the Internet as they please. Key lobbyists in favor of the bill are the Motion Picture Association of America, media firms, pharmaceutical companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Opponents include Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, and the Consumer Electronics Association.
In essence, this is bad news for small websites as well as social media monoliths like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr. These sites could potentially be held responsible for what their users post; that means uploading an awesome video of your cat freaking out to the recent Metallica/Lou Reed collaboration to YouTube could be construed as copyright infringement. Even amateur remixes or fan videos could be pulled for similar reasons. Websites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp, which often stream entire albums uploaded by artists themselves, could be seen as sites dealing in piracy to corporations that don’t know any better. SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act would also let the government and corporations force advertisers and payment companies to cut off funds to potentially infringing websites.
The Huffington Post astutely pointed out the legal nightmares that could ensue from the passage of SOPA. Our current legal system is already struggling to keep up with the rapid evolution of technology. This bill is poised to make things worse, and the possibility for abuse is limitless.
The video below from Fight for the Future helps break down what SOPA is all about. At present, there are several petitions circulating in protest of the bill. Sign them all if you can, and declare your stance against Internet censorship.