Thursday, November 17, 2011

sopa is Stop Internet Piracy Act

SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is another one of those bills that sounds like it's going to do something mildly positive but, in reality, has serious potential to negatively change the internet as we know it. It puts power in the hands of the entertainment industry to censor sites that allegedly "engage in, enable or facilitate" copyright infringement. This language vague enough to encompass sites you use every day, like Twitter and Facebook, making SOPA a serious problem. Here's how it works and what you can do about it. Opponents of a bill designed to protect the rights of film companies and music labels say it could be perverted to censor the Internet in the United States.

Hearings in the House of Representatives on the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) began Wednesday, sparking a campaign by dozens of companies to keep the bill from becoming law.

"We support the bill's stated goals," says an open letter signed by nine Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL and eBay.

"Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities."

The companies believe the government should "consider more targeted ways to combat foreign 'rogue' websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting."

SOPA was designed to "promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes," according to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

It would allow the government to order service providers to shut down websites it finds have violated copyright laws by illegally distributing protected material. The government’s reach would also extend to search engines, which would be required to remove those websites from its results.
Currently Twitter, Google, Reddit, Kickstarter, Tumblr, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Zynga, Facebook, and several other sites have spoken out in opposition of SOPA. If you'd like to as well, there are a couple of things you can do.
SOPA would also grant the Justice Department the right to target internationally operated websites, as well as domestic ones.

A similar bill, PROTECT IP Act, has been drafted in the Senate.

"The solutions are draconian," Google chairman Eric Schmidt said during an appearance at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The bill "would require (Internet service providers) to remove URLs from the web, which is also known as censorship last time I checked."

Rep. Smith says his bill "will stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators."

However, despite the good intentions, Internet companies such as Linkedin, Mozilla and Reddit say the bills as they exist now are "censorship."

“As written, they would betray more than a decade of U.S. policy and advocacy of Internet freedom by establishing a censorship system using the same domain blacklisting technologies pioneered by China and Iran,”
House Judiciary Committee members expressed their support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Wednesday. SOPA is a bill drafted in late October that would give copyright owners greater control over how their intellectual property is distributed via the internet. At a hearing Wednesday, members of the House Judiciary Committee debated SOPA, which is aimed at shutting down websites that distribute pirated intellectual property.

Despite the 8 members of the bipartisan group that stood by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith in drafting SOPA, the Washington Post reports that Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), led 10 other House lawmakers in writing a letter to Smith ahead of the hearing to protest SOPA. First, call your congressperson on the phone. This is especially important if you live in Texas, Michigan, Vermont, or Iowa. You can also send a letter to your congressperson by visiting the American Censorship Day web site. To activate the contact widget, you have to click the "Try it out" link that's wedged between two screenshots of a censored logo and the "Website Blocked" widget you're trying to open. This will provide you with a form and allow you to send a letter.

Second, get the word out. Post this article, the American Censorship Day web site, or any other information about SOPA on your social media accounts. Send emails to friends and family. If you oppose the bill, help others to understand why they should oppose it as well.

SOPA is on the fast track, so if you want to fight it you need to do so today. We do, however, recommend you get to know the bill so you you can make an informed decision regarding how you feel about it.


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