SOPA Pros and Cons and Why You Need to Be Aware

SOPA will have a far reaching effect on the Internet community. It is your right to know the negative and positive effects this will have on you as an internet user.

What is Washington's Stand on SOPA?

For years authorities have been lamenting the lack of law that will hold in court to convict perpetrators of online piracy and counterfeiting. On May 12, 2011 a bill was proposed to the Senate to address this deficiency, the Protect IP Act  or Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (S.965.IS). And again introduced on May 26, 2011 (S.968.RS) . The intent of this bill is to "prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes".The Protect IP Act covers piracy and copyright violations by both domestic and foreign perpetrators affecting United States intellectual property rights owners with the purpose of distributing said pirated or illegally distributed products to the US market. 

Another bill was presented on October 26, 2011 under H.R.3261.IH or SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). This bill relates to the Protect IP Act (S.968) and Combating Military Counterfeits Act (S.1228). The bill targets all internet sites owned and operated in the US or other countries who are offering goods and services to the United States market which are found to be in violation of copyright ownership. It gives Internet Service Providers (ISP) the right to block the infringing sites by preventing their IP addresses to resolve into their DNS or domain names but not completely block the IP address itself. It will mandate search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. to remove the sites from or prevent them from appearing on the search results via their direct hypertext link. All payments for services and goods will be blocked through the online payment providers and will cause to ban and cease US advertising services to the sites deemed as violators..

This bill also covers those acts that can endanger the health of US citizens by persecuting those who sell counterfeit drugs or goods including those sold to military agencies of up to a maximum fine of $15,000,000 or life imprisonment if the act results in death. Streaming or distribution of copyrighted media prior to the commercial distribution or while in distribution is also a criminal violation under Section 201. It also covers espionage committed against a United States intellectual property rights owner and industries.

What is the Public's Reaction to the Protect IP Act and SOPA?

Since the introduction of Protect IP Act in May 12, the internet community has been campaigning to stop the bill from being passed and legalized. There is a collective doubt in the government's ability to justly implement it. Some users fear that an act as simple as posting a video of your child singing a Beyonce song might cause you to serve some jail time for infringement.

US News' Andrew McDiarmid in his article Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts Do More Harm Than Good explains how it could actually increase cybersecurity risks for US internet users instead of the good that they are purporting it will do. Technology is moving and advancing very fast and any attempt to curtail or limit accessibility only serves as a fuel to move faster in order to circumvent any such internet roadblocks. The bill also allows the persecution of any one who assists and provides a way to bypass the system, but this will simply drive the cyberworld to find more obscure means to fight for their freedom to free media and information. The internet community, which includes us and everyone else in the world, sees this as a curtailment of freedom of expression and the repression of creativity rather than being its protector. Mark Lemley, David S. Levine, & David G. Post in their article Don't Break the Internet called SOPA "not only [a violation of] basic principles of due process by depriving persons of property without a fair hearing and a reasonable opportunity to be heard, it also constitutes an unconstitutional abridgement of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment". Many fear that this could cripple internet technology innovation as well as stability.

The White House it seems is doing its utmost to get this bill in place the more people protest. Without the bill being passed as yet, already 131 domains have been seized due to alleged association with counterfeiting and piracy related activities. According to the report by Tom Cheredar, "the domain seizures are for plenty of websites that have some gray area when it comes to who is actually responsible for illegal activity. For instance, sites that simply share links to potentially illegal streaming content as well as torrent search sites were among those that had domains seized by the government." If you are a facebook user and posts videos or links to copyrighted media or blogger who posts links to said media to keep your site running you are affected.

Protect IP Act only covers the censorship of sites that violates copyright ownership. SOPA on the other hand is a bill that included the prosecution of selling of prohibited drugs and products online as a criminal act. Protect IP Act alone is a weak argument in lieu of the many negative consequences it will cause the cybercommunity. However SOPA with its inclusion of SEC. 202. Trafficking in Inherently Dangerous Goods or Services, has more weight. If the Protect IP Act fails to pass but SOPA does, the effect will be the same. A clever move on the Senate's side? You as a US tax payer will be shouldering the additional expenses this new bill will incur. At $47 Million dollars a year don't you think that's a bit stiff to protect the rights of Justin Beiber to Baby?

Your rights, your decision. More information at http://americancensorship.org/

image source: digitaltrends.com

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Kimberley Heit
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Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Dec 31, 2011