What are SOPA and PIPA?
The United States Congress is proposing two laws that address the problem of wide-scale unlicensed distribution on the Internet of motion pictures, songs, trademarked goods, and patented pharmaceuticals.
1. One of the proposals is called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and would direct search engines in the United States to block Internet sites outside the United States that are primarily engaged in distributing unlicensed content.
2. Another proposal called PIPA (Protect IP Act) would block websites located in the United States as well.
The Obama administration is putting a stop to these proposals. It wants the Internet companies and the content companies to get together and come up with more functional and less destructive solutions.
What would happen?
In both proposals, if they became law, the government of the United States would determine on application if a website was primarily engaged in unlicensed distribution. A court might hold a hearing but only if the people who run the website showed up. Otherwise, the site would be blocked by an order directing all websites in the United States with search capabilities or links to refuse to resolve any results or clicks to the blocked address.
Blocking addresses is hard to do without damaging every address on the Internet. The blocking methods suggested in these two proposals would completely confuse existing Internet functions. They would encourage multiple hacks to get around the blocks (and the proposals, it turns out, would be ineffective against very simple work-arounds). Maybe a few copyrights get saved but the price is opening massive wormholes in the Internet permitting hackers to re-direct traffic all over the place -- to malware, spyware, and phishing operations.
Identifying sites that "primarily" infringe on copyrights is full of complexity. Nobody agrees on what "primarily" means. Many sites like Wikileaks and other activist, political, and cultural websites need to copy material that is copyrighted by others who oppose their goals in order to criticize them or to bring important documents into the light. Some organizations, particularly political and religious ones, would use these laws if they were passed to try to block sites that republish controversial writings of a dictator or of a priest that they would prefer to keep under wraps.
Even harmless Internet behavior can be "primarily" an infringing activity: for example, a Tumblr account with still frames taken off of Glee. The unique address of the Tumblr account potentially could be blocked under these proposed laws.
What's SOPA's implications?
SOPA, which would only block websites outside the United States, is a complete embarrassment to a country that has avidly supported the freedom of all peoples to express themselves openly particularly in the face of oppressive regimes. The role of the Internet in populist liberation movements is well-known and the tools used by these movements come from the people and companies that built the Internet and the Web -- not from motion picture companies and sellers of consumer goods. If the United States blocks websites over a Tom Cruise movie or a Rihanna song, other countries are certain to be encouraged by this to find cultural and political reasons to block websites from the Unites States and will refuse to open their borders, virtual or otherwise.
The Internet that has connected the world would become disconnected under these dangerous proposals.
The Internet is fragile. The worldwide protection of copyrights and trademarked goods is extensive and the laws for them already are powerful. By comparison, laws that protect an open Internet are few and far between.
The compromises that the White House calls for are going to be very difficult to reach. The motion picture studios and record companies are getting actors, directors, and singers to support SOPA and similar measures and have announced that they are not going to back down. Internet users are up in arms and protests are scheduled.
SOPA and PIPA are completely outrageous in my opinion. I have afew things to say to the government.
Stop Piracy. Not Liberty. The Internet is practically our only freedom now. SOPA and PIPA are completely unconstitutional.
(Addition from Striker)
I would also like to add that if SOPA became law, it would also be shutting down almost every site we know and love. For instance, most of us have accounts on ROBLOX, Facebook, Twitter, and many other accounts. SOPA could very well shut all of those - and many more - sites down. RPF included.