I’ve been hearing a lot about the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” but I haven’t been sure as to what it actually is. Websites I tend to visit often—like Google, Wikipedia, and WordPress—are going “dark” and censoring themselves in protest of the bill. But what does it all mean? After trudging through some of the political jargon and legal nuances, I’ve figured out some reasons as to why this is such a controversial act on behalf of the House of Representatives.
The bill sounds good. It claims to “promote prosperity and creativity.” However, the result of it could be devastating; some even claim that if SOPA passes, the restrictive effect could be equivalent to the desolate cyberspace of the Great Firewall of China. Why? Because of the bill’s vehement stance against posting copyrighted material, sites that have user-generated content—for example, YouTube or this blog—could be shut down indefinitely if just one person infringes on copyright law. Want to show everybody that new remix of Michael Jackson’s Thriller? Nope, your account could very well be suspended. And while YouTube can suspend your account, smaller websites could have that entire user-base blacklisted and removed from Google.
The reality is that it’s really hard to launch a website and not violate a couple arbitrary copyright laws. Even a sponsor for SOPA violated copyright laws by using a picture that’s under the Creative Commons without detailing the proper sourcing. If the law that he sponsors passes, his website would be immediately shut down. If you are against this law and others like it make yourself known. Contact your local congressman, blog about it, do what you can to save the freedom of the internet.