What is SOPA?
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is a bill introduced into the House of Representatives in October to give law enforcement and copyright holders additional tools to prevent copyright infringement, backing off another bill, PIPA, both seeking to protect corporations from the theft of imaginary property.
How are SOPA and PIPA attacking the Internet?
SOPA section 103 and PIPA section 4 require payment processors and ad networks to shut down accounts if they receive the right kind of letter from a copyright owner — a system modeled on the heavily criticized notice-and-takedown provisions of the current Digital Millenium Copyright Act that requires a service like YouTube to pull down infringing content after the copyright owner complaints.
SOPA section 104 offers legal immunity to ISPs that independently block websites that host illegally copied material without any prompting from the government. That’s a major conflict of interest for a huge ISP like Comcast, which also owns NBC — there would be nothing stopping Comcast from blocking a foreign video service that competes with NBC if it could claim it had a “reasonable belief” it was “dedicated to the theft of US property.” And indeed, Comcast is among the companies that support SOPA.
Now, you may have noticed that while all these rules are totally insane, they’re all at least theoretically restricted to foreign sites — defined by SOPA as sites with servers located outside the US. That’s important to know: at its simplest level, SOPA is a kneejerk reaction to the fundamental nature of the internet, which was explicitly designed to ignore outmoded and inconvenient concepts like the continuing existence of the United States. Because US copyright holders generally can’t drag a foreign web site into US courts to get them to stop stealing and distributing their work, SOPA allows them to go after the ISPs, ad networks, and payment processors that are in the United States. It is a law borne of the blind logic of revenge: the movie studios can’t punish the real pirates, so they are attacking the network instead.
How SOPA and PIPA affect YOU?
Force U.S. internet providers to block access to websites deemed as enablers of copyright infringement
Seek legal action by suing search engines, blog sites, directories, or any site, in general, to have the black listed sites removed from their website
Will be able to force advertising services on infringing websites, and those supporting them, to remove them from their advertising accounts
Companies will also have the power to sue any new websites that get started after this bill is passed if they believe that they are not doing a good job of preventing infringement on your website
The U.S. Attorney General can now seek a court order that would force search engines, advertisers, DNS providers, servers, and payment processors from having any contact with allegedly infringing websites
It will allow private corporations to create their own personal hit lists composed of websites they feel are breaking their copyright policies, ironically this doesn’t have any odd feelings of a legal mafia at all. These companies will be able to directly contact a website’s payment processors a notice to cut all off payment involvement with the targeted website. This payment processors and website of question will then have five days to act before it is simply taken down.
Payment processors will have the power to cut off any website they work with, as long as they can provide a strong reason for why they believe this site is violating copyrights