SOPA: Scaring or Securing Internet Users?
Since October 2011, the Internet all over the world is buzzing with the recent issue of Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill. Millions of Internet users and Internet entrepreneurs are protesting against the newly proposed law. On the other hand, there is a strong opposition of politically influential people towards these protestors who favor this law by continuously highlighting its usefulness. The situation of the SOPA bill issue is getting closer to its destination with every passing second.
However, for those valued readers who don’t know the story of SOPA, here is a piece of writing showing both sides of the coin so that you make a decision yourself that either SOPA is "securing" the Internet users or "scaring" them away…
SOPA is a term used for Stop Online Piracy Act (officially known as H.R. 3261) for a bill that was floated in October 2011 at the US House of Representatives. The SOPA bill was presented by Representative Lamar Smith in association with a group of 12 co-sponsors.
SOPA traces its roots down to Protect IP Act of proposed in 2008 for preventing real online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property.
According to the official statement, the objective of SOPA is “to promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” In simple English, the SOPA bill empowers the US jurisdiction, as well as the copyright owners of a particular website, to take legal actions against any other website that they find guilty of ‘enabling or facilitating copyright infringement’ in any way.
The Way It Works
As mentioned earlier, the SOPA bill has been proposed to discourage any act of piracy that harms the intellectual property of a US-based website or online business. The SOPA bill, if passed, will empower the authority of the US court, allowing the Attorney General to seek a court order against the accused website from any part of the world.
In case the court finds the accused website guilty of online Piracy, it will have to face the following consequences:
- Removal of such website from all major search engines like Yahoo, Google, and Bing, etc.
- Barring of online payment facilitators like PayPal etc. from doing business with such website
- Internet service providers will deny their customers from accessing the accused website.
- The infringing website will not be allowed to do any further business with Internet advertising networks like Google AdSense and BuySellAds etc.
In other words, the accused site will be sentenced to "online death" for the infringing website depriving it of both traffic and revenue.
SOPA – Securing the Internet Users
After reading the aforementioned consequences, one might think that what would be the arguments that favor the SOPA and prompt its proponents to present this bill with such harsh penalties in front of the US administration.
Here are a couple of favoring statements from the proponents of SOPA.
According to the co-sponsor representative Bob Goodlatte:
“Intellectual property is one of America’s chief job creators and competitive advantages in the global marketplace, yet American inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs have been forced to stand by and watch as their works are stolen by foreign infringers beyond the reach of current U.S. laws. This legislation will update the laws to ensure that the economic incentives our Framers enshrined in the Constitution over 220 years ago – to encourage new writings, research, products, and services – remain effective in the 21st Century’s global marketplace, which will create more American jobs.” (Ref. Wikipedia)
Sponsor representative, John Conyers favors the SOPA bill by saying:
“Millions of American jobs hang in the balance, and our efforts to protect America’s intellectual property are critical to our economy’s long-term success.” Smith added, “The Stop Online Piracy Act helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators.” (Ref. Wikipedia)
Other arguments advocating the SOPA and calling the infringing websites at "Rouge Website” stress upon its usefulness by highlighting that this act will empower and secure the motion picture and film industry; the industry that creates 2 million jobs and thousands of micro-businesses throughout the US.
SOPA – Scaring the Internet Users
By reading up till now, SOPA sounds more like a pretty responsible act that is there to defend and secure the genuine intellectual property and sheer hard work of US Internet users. However, things are seldom what they seem.
As soon as the bill was presented, the word got out and spread all over the world wide web like wildfire. Millions of Internet users and online service providers were hit by a bolt. Soon different blogs, discussion forums and social networking websites were inundated with anti-SOPA content protesting and highlighting the possible catastrophic affects of this act on the Internet and its users.
Let us have a sweeping glance at a few of these:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
EFF resisted SOPA, saying that SOPA will not only hinder the process of free speech but has also warned that Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo all seem likely to shut down if the bill becomes law.
Mozilla protested by creating a page “Protect the Internet: Help us stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation.”
One of the most intense protests was carried out by Yahoo which has reportedly quit the US Chamber of Commerce over its keen support for SOPA.
Letter to the Senate
The Internet giants like Google, Mozilla, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, AOL, and LinkedIn have written a letter of protest to US Senate and House of Representatives, calling SOPA ‘a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cyber-security.’
The antagonists of SOPA consider it as an infringement to the First Amendment and call it an "The Great Firewall of America" posing a serious threat to free speech.
Possible Affects of SOPA on the Internet Users
There has hardly been any bill presented to the governmental body anywhere in the world that has not been opposed or rejected by some. However, in the case of SOPA, the bill has been publicly discouraged and raged upon by a good number of people from around the world. This opposition is mainly due to the possible effects of SOPA, which people can foresee and are worried about. Here are some of the potential threats of SOPA that the protestors have highlighted:
Ice Age of Internet
According to the mechanism of SOPA, it has the authority to blacklist any such website that will be involved in online piracy and infringement. Opponents of SOPA are of the view that the penalties of the bill are so disconnected to the actual criminal act that it will destroy web hosting and e-commerce industry and cause the Internet’s potential progress to halt in terms of investment as well as research and development.
SOPA will be a big cause of killing the source projects that will lead to domain blocking and ultimately depriving millions of people of their jobs. The drastic effects of SOPA on the Internet businesses will result into more lawsuits, decreased investment and ultimately fewer new jobs
Free Speech Shut-up
The basic issue with the SOPA bill is that it is unable to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial use of copyrighted content. Whoever will upload copyrighted content on websites like YouTube for the mere purpose of sharing will be held liable and will have to face the consequences.
Moreover, as well all know that the series of democratic revolutions that occurred in the Arab countries, known as the Arab Spring, partially owe their success to worldwide Internet content. However, according to the SOPA law, the proxy servers used during the Arab Spring fall into the category of copyright infringement, making it a criminal act and eventually hindering the process of whistle blowing and free speech.
I would like to conclude this piece of writing by quoting a saying that “one man’s fortune is the other’s misfortune”. However, in the case of SOPA, the bill will be a cause of misfortune for millions of Internet users and online business owners throughout the globe.