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SOPA: A Problematic Solution

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act), the controversial bills that have stirred an abundance of protests, were initially proposed as a solution to Internet users illegally downloading and/or accessing copyrighted material.

Despite early support from the Senate and many major companies, the bills became a target of public scrutiny because of how they would restrict seemingly inherit freedoms of the Internet.  SOPA and PIPA are not protested because they attempt to enforce existing copyright law, but instead how they would enforce it.

SOPA and PIPA would give the U.S. Government an unprecedented ability to block foreign websites whom are considered “enablers of copyright-infringement”.  Any website which fits the criteria of enabling is subject to all of the following:

  • U.S. Internet Providers would be forced to block access to the website
  • Payment processors would no longer be allowed to process transactions on behalf of the site
  • Advertisers would be forced to remove their advertising accounts from the infringing websites
  • Search engines and other websites would be forced to completely remove references to the infringing site

Simply put, if SOPA and PIPA are passed, website owners will always be one copyright claim away from a kiss of death. Mythbuster’s star, Adam Savage, is among the many voices that have publically renounced SOPA. In a quote from late December, Savage very concisely explained the dangers SOPA poses:

Make no mistake: These bills aren’t simply unconstitutional, they are anticonstitutional. They would allow for the wholesale elimination of entire websites, domain names, and chunks of the DNS (the underlying structure of the whole Internet), based on nothing more than the “good faith” assertion by a single party that the website is infringing on a copyright of the complainant. The accused doesn’t even have to be aware that the complaint has been made… I’m not kidding.

Perhaps in the future, the legal risk of owning a website will be too great for smaller businesses and potential startups, and only powerhouses such as Facebook and Twitter will have the financial means to fund necessary moderation.

A Pirate-less Internet

The proposed legislation of SOPA and PIPA is seen as a necessary step by some to rid the Internet of pirates. But can a pirate-less Internet ever exist? Is that vision even a possible reality or merely a pipe dream?

Early indications would suggest the latter. Pirate Bay, one of the Internet’s largest torrent sites, is laughing at SOPA and PIPA.  Pirate Bay would most likely be a top target for censorship if SOPA were passed, but the torrent-site has already begun on work-arounds that would make the pending legislation obsolete.

It would appear that SOPA and PIPA, despite the risk they pose to the future of the Internet, would not be able to take down the biggest copyright-infringer of all.

The Internet Fights Back

To help raise awareness of the dangers of SOPA, the Internet’s big names have all gathered together in protest today by creatively censoring their content.

Google

Wikipedia

Flickr

Help Stop SOPA

Only we can protect our liberties. Tell your congressman, SOPA is not OK.

Sign the petition by visiting https://blacklist.eff.org/?action_KEY=8173.

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