What is SOPA?

If you spend any time at all the Internet, you’ve most likely seen tweets, status updates and articles talking about this thing called SOPA. If you’ve not had the time or inclination to dive in and find out what it’s all about but you are curious, we’ve attempted to cover the main highlights in this post.

1. SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act from the House of Representatives (H.R. 3261). There is a similar Senate bill called Protect-IP.

2. This is a bill that is backed by the entertainment industry and pharmaceutical companies. Music labels and television/movie production companies don’t want people to be able to steal their content. Pharmaceutical companies don’t websites to be able to sell pharmaceutical drugs to people online without a prescription. Overall, those two things don’t sound so bad. The problem comes with the measures the act will allow government to take to enforce it. Paul McDougall of Information Week writes about the 5 key elements of the bill and their implications.

Allison from BlogWorld sums it up like this, “Basically, what SOPA does is create a way for content creators (anyone from a large movie studio to an individual artist) to fight piracy, which is a good thing. But it also creates tons of loopholes for content creators to shut down anything they don’t like or understand that they feel infringes on their rights.”

3. Internet companies are, naturally, against this bill and sent an open letter to Congress stating their displeasure with it.

“We support the bill’s stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign “rogue” websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require the monitoring of web sites. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to foreign “rogue” web sites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.”

The letter was signed by nine Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL and eBay.

David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS, said in an interview with CNET that the bill, “creates a tremendous amount of liability for ISPs and service providers like mine to become the censorship arm of the Department of Justice, which is not a position we want to be in.”

This video from sums it all up rather succinctly.

4. This bill can be stopped but it will take a large grassroots effort that is already well under way. If you feel this bill is bad for American and the Internet, please don’t delay – contact your congressperson TODAY!

Email your Congressional Representative.
Send a note to your Senators.

UPDATE: Mashable has handy infographic about SOPA

Locked Laptop image courtesy of Microsoft ClipArt Online

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