This information about SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act – has been compiled by a variety of sources.
SOPA – House Bill HR3261. The purpose of this bill is to protect the owners of copyrighted material from unlicensed sale and distribution. The bill was first introduced by Lamar Smith, a Republican Congressman from Texas.
PIPA – A closely related bill officially known as the “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act” The bill originated in the Senate by Democrat Senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy. S. 968 is similar in its stated goals to SOPA.
What Powers Does SOPA Give the Federal Government? According to the Library of Congress:
Authorizes the Attorney General (AG) to seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy to require the owner, operator, or domain name registrant, or the site or domain name itself if such persons are unable to be found, to cease and desist further activities constituting specified intellectual property offenses under the federal criminal code including criminal copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation and trafficking of sound recordings or videos of live musical performances, the recording of exhibited motion pictures, or trafficking in counterfeit labels, goods, or services.
Think about what this means. If this blog used a picture and it was (unknowingly) copyrighted, this site could be shutdown. If you post a video on YouTube of your kids birthday party and there is music in the background, you are violating this law. If you post a news clip on Facebook about an event near your home, you are in violation. The response from the people that provide these services i.e., Google, Facebook, bloggers, etc., will be to either censor everything, or prevent you from doing anything.
How Does SOPA Affect Internet Service Providers?
Please re-read the powers the AG has. The bill goes further:
Requires online service providers, Internet search engines, payment network providers, and Internet advertising services, upon receiving a copy of a court order relating to an AG action, to carry out certain preventative measures including withholding services from an infringing site or preventing users located in the United States from accessing the infringing site. Requires payment network providers and Internet advertising services, upon receiving a copy of such an order relating to a right holder’s action, to carry out similar preventative measures.
That’s right. This is the black boot of government stepping on the neck of American businesses. If the service providers don’t comply, they too can be shut down and blacklisted. If they comply with the federal givernment, they get immunity, if not, they get the book thrown at them. Note immunity is only given if the service providers comply:
Provides immunity from liability for service providers, payment network providers, Internet advertising services, advertisers, Internet search engines, domain name registries, or domain name registrars that take actions required by this Act or otherwise voluntarily block access to or end financial affiliation with such sites.
What Does Google Think of the Bill? Here’s a collection of quotes from Eric Schmidt:
“If there is a law that requires DNSs [domain name systems, the protocol that allows users to connect to websites] to do X and it’s passed by both houses of congress and signed by the president of the United States and we disagree with it then we would still fight it,” he added. “If it’s a request the answer is we wouldn’t do it, if it’s a discussion we wouldn’t do it.”
That’s good. Google has some serious weight in Washington. He goes on:
“I would be very, very careful if I were a government about arbitrarily [implementing] simple solutions to complex problems,” he said. “So, ‘let’s whack off the DNS’. Okay, that seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say ‘I don’t like free speech so I’ll whack off all those DNSs’ – that country would be China.”It doesn’t seem right. I would be very, very careful about that stuff. If [the UK government] do [sic] it the wrong way it could have disastrous precedent setting in other areas.”
What is DNS? For those who don’t know, DNS (Domain Name System) is the system used to route email and web surfing requests. It exists so that if you type www.toberight.com into a browser, you see this site. Without DNS, you’d have to type in an IP Address, a set of numbers that identifies each web entity.
Yeah, we want the federal government monkeying around with DNS.
Who in Washington is Supporting This Bill? Chris Dodd – the guy who caused the housing crisis – is still behind this bill. As are many other lame brain megalomaniacs in Congress.
Finally, it looks like we’re getting some traction on this. Supporters, even original sponsors, of the bill are dropping like flies. Senator Marco Rubio, a favorite of ToBeRIGHT, has withdrawn his support for the bill. From Fox News:
“I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor,” Rubio posted on his Facebook page, “Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
It looks like Daryl Issa is taking a good strong stand too:
“I think the Republican House leadership will look and say, ‘Unless we have the support of the vast majority of Republicans, we’re not going to take the bill to the floor.'”
For more information, there is an excellent write up and FAQ at CNet, see their information.