SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act) is a U.S. bill that expands the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
The bill provides the possibility to request a court order to bar advertising networks and payment facilities, like PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, etc., from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites. it also allows you to request Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law is intended to expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material.
The Act can have far-reaching consequences.
For instance, if YouTube has but one copyrighted movie on its site, it can be closed down. If Wikipedia contains copyrighted text, it can be shut down. If a website has only one copyrighted photo on it, it can be made invisible in search engines.
SOPA is – of course – heavily supported by the entertainment industry, but the bill seriously threatens free speech and innovation, opponents say, enabling law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage.
Last week, on January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia, Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, or posted links and images in protest against SOPA (click image to enlarge).
In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, “It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation,” and “it’s very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform.”
Infringement should be fought. But is SOPA the answer?