PIPA and SOPA 101.

Posted on Friday, 3rd February 2012 @ 02:06 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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From January 17 of 2012 to January 22, during those few days many popular websites like Google, Wikipedia and others went dark. The blackout that took place was in protest against PIPA and SOPA.  What are PIPA and SOPA? Why did so many websites blacked-out in protest against PIPA and SOPA?

PIPA means PROTECT IP Act ( Preventing Real Online Threads to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property  ). The bill was introduced in May of 2011 intended to protect copyright holders and  intellectual property holders  from websites that infringe those rights; specially websites operating outside the US.  The Bill’s main objective is to basically act like an online police, enhancing security against rouge websites, specially those outside the US. The bill also enables the erasing of rouge sites from the Domain Name System (DNS) like if the websites erased never existed.

SOPA means Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The bill was introduced with the objective of extend provisions to US law enforcement to combat online traffickers of counterfeit goods, and copyrighted material. According to SOPA advocates, the bill could stop rouge sites (mostly foreign, outside the US) from stealing the work of many hardworking American authors and business owners. Also the bill could protect the American public from counterfeit drugs and goods. How? Well according to SOPA advocates many websites allow Americans to order, and buy drugs from Canadian pharmacies; the shipment of prescription drugs from pharmacies outside the US into the country is illegal, and violates the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Why did many websites (Google, Wikipedia the big ones) blacked-out in protest against PIPA and SOPA? First I will start explaining what an internet black-out is for those who don’t know; a black out is when a website blacks out it’s content for a certain period of time (up to 24 hours) to protest against something; also when a search engine (Google) blocks access to certain sites in protests. Both Wikipedia, Google and other sites blacked-out their content showing their Anti- PIPA, SOPA sentiments.

According to the Wikipedia community and googleblog.blogspot.com the bill if passed could damage greatly the free open web, and infringe First Amendment Rights. How? Well, as stated by The Official Google Blog, PIPA and SOPA could censor the web like many countries like China do; and also grant to much power to law enforcement agencies to block and censor who ever they please, even  innocent  law abiding companies and websites. And despite PIPA and SOPA bills were introduced with the objective of fighting internet piracy and rouge sites; they could also cut down the rights of free speech and a free web dramatically according to Wikipedia community. Many websites like YouTube who depends solely on user’s uploaded contents could take a great hit. Also Facebook, Twitter and other sites will be affected. Let’s say that you want to upload a movie trailer of your favorite movie from  YouTube into your Facebook; well if the both bills pass, you can’t.    You could not watch highlights from your favorite sporting events, or talk about it, uploaded on Facebook, or Twit it. According to Anti-PIPA, SOPA activists like Google and Wikipedia, if both bills are passed the infringement of  First Amendment rights, and the right of a free web will be greatly and costly to the American public. And the worst is that many ordinary users, non-commercial users could be fined or sent to jail for uploading a music video from YouTube on Facebook.     In other words, an average teenager who upload this videos on different social media platforms could be fined and prosecuted.

However many internet companies like Wikipedia, Mozilla, Google and  Twitter acknowledge that internet piracy is a big problem; and that many foreign and  domestic rouge sites illegally traffic copyrighted material and intellectual property. But instead of passing the PIPA and SOPA bills they propose other alternatives like the OPEN Act (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act). The OPEN Act regulates content, publishers and ensures a  law-abiding open web to all Americans. But the question is:  Is PIPA and SOPA all that bad for the American public if passed?? When could PIPA or SOPA be passed?

The answer is yes! If PIPA or SOPA are passed, the rights of a free web will be greatly restricted; and many innocent people (non-commercial users) could get fined or prosecuted for uploading or downloading videos in different social media platforms. For example if a teenage girl upload a video lip-singing to her favorite artist she could be fined and prosecuted for copyright infringement.When could PIPA or SOPA be passed?

For now Congress put a stop to it; and is looking that is neither bill will be passed anytime soon.  But let not assumptions to be made; the PIPA and SOPA soap-opera is far from over, when the next chapter could  be written is unknown. In the meanwhile the best thing we  can do to stop the passing of neither bill is to contact our congressmen  about  it.  Happy free web-surfing everybody!

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