I’ve avoided posting something about the impending Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and its senatorial brother PIPA, because I frankly have no idea where to start on this horrendous piece of legislation. So instead of the long diatribe I’m tempted to write here’s a quick rundown of some pertinent information.
What is SOPA?
SOPA is a piece of legislation currently being marked up in the US House of Congress before moving on to a vote. This legislation allows for the Justice Department to pull sites “dedicated” to copyright infringement from the DNS registry and search engines; this would effectively remove these sites from the Internet within the US – and affect sites who operate in some fashion within the US.
It has been criticized, rightly so, for being a scorched earth policy. Over at Slate James Losey and Sascha Meinrath argue that it essentially amounts to collective punishment of Internet communities. Sites like YouTube could, in theory, be taken down in their entirety for the posting of one copyrighted video by one of their users. The main issue is that what constitutes a site dedicated to copyright infringement is exceedingly vague. Also, considering how we’ve seen the DMCA being abused by corporations, I think it’s safe to be skeptical about how SOPA will be applied in practice.
This video has a pretty good explanation of the bill.
This has, for obvious reasons, upset many people and organizations who rely on the Internet. Both the New York Times and LA Times have come out against the act. Tumblr censored their site and directed users to call their member of congress; they averaged 3.6 calls per second. Avaaz has a petition with more than a million signatures. Twitter, Google, Facebook, and others ran a full page add in the NYT.
Where is it now?
Last Thursday the bill began mark-up to great protest. Experts came in to testify against the bill but most were met with outright derision. In response to a group of the most prominent Internet engineers, who came in to speak on how SOPA would negatively impact online security, a member of Congress was quoted as saying “I’m no nerd, but I just don’t believe it.” The committee vote was delayed after a marathon session and quietly moved to December 21st.
Other points of interest:
- Over at Beth’s Blog there’s an article by Jim Fruchterman addressing the impact of SOPA on non-profits, particularly those dealing with human rights.
- Similarly Cory Doctrow, of Boing Boing, wrote an article for Publishers Weekly tackling the effects of the act on human rights activists.
- Reddit compiled a list of IPs of popular sites to bypass possible censorship. The list has since been taken down (though versions are available) due to issues of people messing up their Internet connections. Use at your own risk.
- How SOPA will effect everyday users.