On November 16, 2011, Congress began holding hearings on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) – the House equivalent to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act. This bill is the first attempt by the U.S. government to censor the Internet. Corporations (specifically in the entertainment industry) want to protect themselves from piracy. When it comes to shutting down websites, it’s pretty easy if those websites are based in the U.S. However, the Internet is international, and we’re all familiar with sites in other countries that allow you to download movies, music, or TV shows for free.
This bill would allow corporations to call out to the government and have offending websites censored via DNS blocking (the same method used by China, Iran, and Syria) — so that Americans on the Internet cannot access them.
The bill would also require search engines like Google, Yahoo!, etc. to censor their search results — so you can’t even find these sites. The bill would require sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or tumblr to censor their users, or risk being shut down — because they are liable if you post any clip of a movie or a link to a censored site. Essentially, if a link to an offending website is posted anywhere, the website on which it is posted could be shut down. It would also make posting any type of copyright-protected song a felony — 5 years in prison. Yes, you could go to prison for putting a video of yourself singing a song protected by copyright on YouTube.
More information past the jump:
In short, the bill would give the government the following rights:
- The right to force service providers to block specific domain names, and also sue U.S. based search engines, forums, or other websites to have links to these domains removed. Moreover, companies can sue any site they feel is not filtering well enough.
- Cut off funds to infringing websites by forcing advertisers to cancel accounts to those websites. This has the potential to be abused, as any site that has user interactions could be shut down as a result of poor filtering.
- American Censorship Day: Nov. 16, 2011 – Easy way to contact Congress
- Infographic – Explains SOPA in a simple infographic
- Fight for the Future
- SOPA on OpenCongress
- PIPA on OpenCongress