SOPA = the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that was introduced in the US House of Representatives last fall, and would allow the US government to "to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement." (source)
Sounds great for protection in light of rampant copyright infringement, but...
...what does that mean in Layman's terms?
As per Chris Heald's Mashable post, in a nutshell SOPA:
- Gives the government the right to unilaterally censor foreign websites.
- Gives copyright holders the right to issue economic takedowns and bring lawsuits against website owners and operators, if those websites have features that make it possible to post infringing content.
- Makes it a felony offense to post a copyrighted song or video.
When you look at these basic points, you can see why there is such an uproar in the online world over the SOPA bill. The most poignant example of the effects of this bill is this: something as basic as you uploading a video of yourself singing someone else's song on YouTube (like millions of people do every day) would be considered a felony. Many entertainment/gossip/music sites? Felonies. Even the vague category of websites that "have features that make it possible to post infringing content" would be in trouble.
Wondering what this has to do with those of us who don't reside in the US? Well, the SOPA bill would allow the US Department of Justice to take action against any allegedly infringing foreign site. Above and beyond that, the bill would be able to consider any IP address in the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) as domestic for US law purposes - even though the ARIN consists of IP addresses in Canada and 20 Caribbean countries as well as the US.
As per Michael Geist's Huffington Post article, "To put this (in) context, every Canadian Internet provider relies on ARIN for its block of IP addresses. In fact, ARIN even allocates the block of IP addresses used by federal and provincial governments. The U.S. bill would treat them all as domestic for U.S. law purposes."
Please see the hyperlinks I've included for more information - I'm just learning about this as well, and the sites I've referenced have been the most concise and clear. Feel free to visit the official protest site, SOPAstrike.com to see a list of sites that will be taking part in the strike. Most of these sites, including WordPress.com, Wikipedia.com and Reddit.com will be blacking out their sites for at least 12 hours today. The SOPA bill will be presented in front of Congress on January 24th, so we'll see how things play out.
Update: Here is Wikipedia's blackout message - more good info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more
I obviously chose not to black out, but my version of support is to dedicate today's post to educating you all on what I've learned about the SOPA bill and its ramifications. If you have any additional insight to SOPA and what that could mean for our online experience, please share in the Comments section! Tomorrow, '83 To Infinity will be back with its usual goodies!