UPDATE: As of Jan. 20, Congress is backing away from the bills and postponing action.
You’ve heard about SOPA and PIPA, the two pieces of legislation aiming to stop online piracy of copyrighted material, and the accompanying protests. But let’s distill it even more, as this is a controversial enough topic we all need to consider.
To make things simple, let’s attack it with the 5 W’s we learned in school, and we’ll certainly leave you to dig even deeper if you like.
As NPR reported, the battle is basically Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. You have the media conglomerates (movies, music, media lobbyists, etc.) on one side wanting to stop the online piracy of their content. The other side, you have the vocal opposition of many Internet users and those who rely on it for their own jobs, including Google, Ebay, Facebook, Twitter, Firefox and LinkedIn.
While SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act – PDF) gets the majority of coverage, there’s also PIPA (PROTECT Intellectual Property Act – PDF). SOPA originated in the House of Representatives, while PIPA is the Senate version. Both seek to add powers to respond to copyright infringements across the Net. The New York Times reports that some methods could include preventing search engines from sending users to sites with questionable content, as well as interacting with payment tools/sites like PayPal to stop the transfer of money for possible pirated media.
Reports show that the Senate could begin voting on PIPA on Jan. 24. However, protests were hitting a feverish pitch starting Jan. 18, with many big-name websites (Google, Wikipedia, etc.) going dark in protest, as well as explaining the issues and requesting their visitors to take action.
While the two bills have originated in the U.S. Congress, their reach could extend even farther. The Internet being so decentralized will lead to so many problems as to searching for possible infringements, you might see foreign websites, hosts, ISPs and the like stuck in such a legal morass. Let’s say a user in Ireland posts an infringed movie file from a California movie company to a website hosted in Israel – it’s likely both groups will be pulled into the fight with the studio. How do you get all the groups, with their separate legal issues, to comply with one another?
At the heart of the matter is a fight against online piracy of copyright infringed works. I don’t think people want to have free or vastly cheap access to songs, movies, TV shows, etc., but the too broad, too powerful laws are irking many. There is talk of these laws having an adverse effect on free speech rights and the integrity/security of the technology that “powers” the Internet.
I want to know more!
http://metatalk.metafilter.com/21380/SOPAPIPA-blackout (Disclaimer: I’m a paying member of this website, but this post goes into a very detailed account of a SOPA-like request to shut down a site due to alleged copyright infringement.)
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/copyrights/index.html?smid=tw-nytimes (Once again, the Times has a great overview on a large topic, with multiple links and details.)
http://www.vice.com/read/pipa-supporters-copyright-violations (Some of the SOPA and PIPA legislators are in fact using copyrighted works without request/permission.)
http://theoatmeal.com/ (The animation takes a humorous look as to how SOPA might shut his website down. It might be crude, but the points are valid. Note: the animation might not be safe for work.)