Imagine surfing the internet without being able to watch videos on YouTube, share with your friends on Facebook, look at pictures of your best friend’s new baby on Flickr or read news headlines from reddit. All because a supercharged copyright law forces these sites to give government and corporate super-users direct access to a delete button. Luckily this is not reality, though it could be if the Congress passes H.R. 3261 the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Essentially, SOPA would claim the federal government “owns” the internet and will have the ability shut-down any website that commits a copyright infringement, whether willfully or not. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains, that SOPA “would allow the Attorney General to cut off sites from the Internet, essentially ‘blacklisting’ companies from doing business on the web. Under section 102, the Attorney General can seek a court order that would force search engines, DNS providers, servers, payment processors, and advertisers to stop doing business with allegedly infringing websites.” EFF adds, “at a minimum, this means that any service that hosts user generated content is going to be under enormous pressure to actively monitor and filter that content.“ And that, “what happened to Wikileaks via voluntary censorship will now be systematized and streamlined – as long as someone, somewhere, thinks they’ve got an IP right that’s being harmed.“
In addition to the possibility of your favorite sites being taken down, you could wind up in jail for 5 years, if you inadvertently violate the law, while not willfully or knowingly violating the Copyright Act.
The ACLU adds, “SOPA also fails to assure that those whose material will be blocked, whether infringing or non-infringing material, receive adequate notice before the content is blocked.”
Karl Fogel of QuestionCopyright writes, “Even if one thinks that illegal copying is an infection that has to be cured (which we emphatically don’t agree with), SOPA’s solution is analogous to curing it by removing the patient’s circulatory system!”
Even though EFF reports that Rep. Darrell Issa said that he doesn’t “believe the bill has any chance on the House floor,” that does not mean the bill is dead. It could still be repackaged and added to an unrelated bill (that is sure to pass) down the road.