What’s the deal and what does it mean for a Stanford student?
These activities and others among the tech elite represent a broad movement in Silicon Valley circles to protest legislation that would put severe copyright infringement restrictions on major Internet services. Here’s the soundbite summary from my research.
The former and more far-reaching law, SOPA, would impose heavy penalties on any website providing links to pirated or copyrighted content. The intent is to protect providers and creators of such content (particularly in the music and movie industries) from the effects of illegal downloading. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has stated that “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.”
The difficulty here is that the regulation that would be imposed by SOPA would put the burden of proof on the accused: once accused, sites like YouTube and Wikipedia would be assumed guilty until their research teams could exonerate themselves. For small start-ups and vast corporations alike, the costs ensuing from such a law could be prohibitively expensive. Top tech industry representatives, including Vint Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, have taken a public stand against the law, encouraging web users to do likewise. Numerous big-name companies have aligned themselves against the bill, including AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Zynga.
The slightly more vague and potentially more malleable PIPA stipulates that any “information location tool shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, to remove or disable access to [offending Internet sites].” All hyperlinks to offending sites must then be removed, in effect wiping the site from accessibility to Americans. The challenge is that removing these sites does not actually stop access: you can still access blocked websites by entering their IPs instead of their names (see demo video). Additionally, many fear that reorganization of the global domain names could compromise the security of the Internet itself.
While Silicon Valley representatives agree that stronger measures are necessary to combat offshore piracy, most conclude that SOPA and PIPA are not the correct solutions.
But don’t just take my word for it!
Educate yourself and make an informed opinion. The links below provide reasoning from both sides of the argument, and I encourage you to read further by simply Googling “SOPA” or “PIPA.”
- Bill text of SOPA from the Library of Congress
- Bill text of PIPA from the Library of Congress
- Wikipedia on SOPA and PIPA
- CNN Money on the SOPA debate
- Gizmodo on SOPA and how to stop it
- The Huffington Post: SOPA and PIPA in the larger piracy context
- How SOPA and PIPA would affect you
- “Free Bieber”: public debate and quotes from the House
- Pros and cons of SOPA and PIPA
- CBS factsheet on the bills