On the surface, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP (PIPA) sounds like a good idea – to punish those who pirate intellectual property. As an writer and artist, I am all too aware of the dangers of posting your work and then finding it elsewhere, without your permission. Imagine the cost implications for movie studios, record labels, and of course the individual who has few resources to go after the culprit.
The idea behind this bill, according to those who have followed the debate, was sound. The result, however, has been described as a threat to free speech, web-related businesses, users who upload content, internal networks, open source software, and internet security and could lead to a global collapse of the internet.
These accusations are based in the assertion that the bill only broadly defines what is a violation, puts any consumer who hosts a website at risk of violation, and holds internet services such as YouTube responsible for the content their users upload. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology criticize the bill’s wording as vague enough that “a single complaint about even a major website could be enough to cause the site to be blocked, with the burden of proof then resting on the website to get itself un-blocked.”
EFF has indicated that companies like Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo would have little choice but to shut down if the bill becomes law.
Defenders of the bill say that it will protect revenues of content creators and protect against counterfeit drugs. Companies that rely on copyright, including the Motion Picture Association of American, Pfizer, Nike, and L’Oreal support the bill, as does the AFL-CIO and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
On Wednesday, January 18th, Reddit plans a 12-hour knowledge blackout in protest of the bill. As this bill evolves and the House Judiciary Committee continues to debate it, you can keep apprised of it’s progress through our legal system by visiting the Wikipedia article, which is updated daily.
As someone who was around for the very beginning of the wild wild web, we have certainly come a long way. I am not surprised that there are those who try to profit from the content of others. Now, let’s see what we do about it.