SOPA, a U.S. bill that could “break the Internet”

Critics include Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter–and, yes, even Microsoft

American Censorship

By now you may have heard of SOPA–the Stop Online Piracy Act–an anti-infringement bill that’s working it’s way through the U.S. House of Representatives while its companion bill PIPA–Protect Intellectual Property Act–makes its way through the Senate. Opposition to the legislation has gone viral, with over a million emails hitting Congress, carrying the phrase “Don’t Break the Internet.”

These people’s beef? There are many. A tentative summary: Critics argue that, in their desire to curb piracy, SOPA and PIPA will in effect render the Internet itself legally untenable by holding search engines, ISPs and user-generated content sites responsible for other people’s piracy. The proposed legislation targets not just infringers, but anyone suspected of being associated with them–advertisers, payment sites, even those who just link to them. With their shaky understanding of technology, the bills will potentially result in entire websites (like say, Wikipedia) being blocked due to infringements found in a small section of them. Though the bills were not designed to be censorship legislation, censorship could be the outcome, as false positives and false infringement claims could block access to millions of non-infringing sites. Before things even get to that stage, self-censorship will chill voices online that simply can’t risk possibly transgressing the bills’ overly general language. Meanwhile, censorship-circumvention tools like TOR, used to evade Net-censors in Iran and China, will be rendered illegal, as such tools can also be used to gain access to pirated content.

The effects of SOPA and PIPA will be felt throughout the world, as the way the bill defines “U.S. websites” is so broad as to cover most of the Internet itself. The list of collateral damage the bills are feared to cause goes on, and the list of the bills’ critics keeps expanding. In addition to the million+ citizens who have spoken out, the legislation is also opposed by tech companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla, Wikimedia, and, yes, even Microsoft.

Here’s what people are saying about SOPA and PIPA:

“The definitions written in the bill are so broad that any U.S. consumer who uses a website overseas immediately gives the U.S. jurisdiction the power to potentially take action against it.”
-Art Bordsky of Public Knowledge

“…this aggressive U.S. approach… simply asserts jurisdiction over millions of Canadian registered IP addresses and domain names.”
-Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law

“It’ll have a stifling effect on venture capital. No one would invest because of the legal liability.”
-Internet entrepreneur Lukas Biewald, founder of Crowdflower

“This is just another case of Congress doing the bidding of powerful lobbyists—in this case, Hollywood and the music industry, among others.”
-Fortune Magazine

“…this would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”
-Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)

“This bill cannot be fixed; it must be killed.”
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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SOPA, a U.S. bill that could “break the Internet”

  1. This will be the most abused and manipulated legislation ever written into law.  Say NO to censorship!

  2. With this the US will also give them power to cancle orders done over sea. Now we will have to only order products frm with in the USA.  This can not be legal for them to do.  Say go bye to not just the internet but also Importing and Exporting because  by killing the internet they will kill them also

  3. I just want them to crack down on all torrent sites.  No more bootlegging.  If you want a dvd or a cd, BUY it.

    • While I generally agree, how do you propose they go about it? Send SEAL teams into Norway to take out the servers?  I mean, I suppose they could just try to block sections of the Internet. You could go and ask China how they go about it… while there, you might also want to ask them, quietly, of course, how successful it actually is.

      • shareware, freeware, etc. internet = freedom.
         Granolieman your suggesting giving up liberty for security, be it online or in life, this is a ridiculous notion. The internet is the only thing left to spread news unfiltered. if this passes, it will be used for ulterior motives.

        • Yes! I want to be able to steal things! It’s my freedom to do so!

          • Stealing’s not okay, but the methods you would use to stop the thieves would be far worse than the theft.

          • I do believe SwellSwill is mocking Tarzan85 – but your point is a valid one nonetheless.

    • Why would anyone want to buy a CD or DVD? Those technologies were obsolete years ago.

    • But there are some of us who don’t use torrents for downloading films or music, but merely television. I live in the UK and I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait weeks or months for programmes to be broadcast over here… If there was a way to download them with the adverts, I would do so gladly. and I would watch them.

  4. If we do nothing, the gag of censorship will stifle the voice of the people, permanently. 

  5. SOPA is really more like corporate welfare. The content distributors find that people no longer want to buy their products, so what do they do? Whine to the government to get them to force people to have no alternative but to buy from them. It should be up to the industry to reinvent itself and find some way to get people to want to buy from them again. And if they can’t do that, then those companies should just get out of the publishing/distribution industry. Then we can welcome a new era of self publishing via the internet where the profits from sales will go to the actual content creators, not corporate middlemen. Markus Pearson’s Minecraft is an excellent example of how self publishing/distribution via internet can be extremely successful, despite the wide availability of “pirated” copies of the game, there have been over 4 million purchases of the game, earning Pearson millions.

  6. Wow, really, congress? Really? Half the guys I subscribe to on YouTube thrive off of exactly what you’re trying to stop! This is their actual livelihood!!

  7. You do not cure an infection by killing the body

    • In fairness, such a method would usually work.

  8. I support SOPA not because I want to break internet..but because I fucking hate so many peoples fall victims of their privacy due to the so-called ‘free internet’. So many intellectual privacy has been infringed and we are no longer safe because the way internet is handled.

    • Be smart. Don’t put personal information online. SOPA is not protecting your privacy. At ALL. If musicians didn’t sample other artists, we wouldn’t have music today. If author’s weren’t inspired by their favorite writers, we wouldn’t have any new literature. Intellectual property is a living being and needs to be handled as such, you wouldn’t lock a dog in a box and expect it to thrive, would you?

  9. Jesse, who’s advocating/lobbying for these bills? Is it the usual suspects RIAA and other such groups?

    • Major Corporations Supporting SOPA Bill (EXPECT US):-3M Company-Adidas America-Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)-Caterpillar Inc.-CBS Corporation-Comcast Corporation-CVS Caremark-Dollar General Corporation-Electronic Arts, Inc.-Ford Motor Company-Harley-Davidson Motor Company-HarperCollins Publishers-Johnson & Johnson-Lexmark International, Inc.-L’Oréal USA-Merck & Co., Inc.-Major League Baseball-Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA)-National Association of Broadcasters-National Basketball Association (NBA)-National Football League (NFL)-NBCUniversal-News Corporation (EXPECT US)-Nintendo of America Inc.-Pfizer Inc.-Rite Aid-Rolex Watch USA Inc. -Sony Electronics Inc.
       -The McGraw-Hill Companies-The Walt Disney Company-Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc.-U.S. Chamber of Commerce -WAL-MART-Zumba Fitness, LLC (WTF?!?!)

      • All these companies invested huge sums of money into technologies rendered useless by this bill…

  10. if this shit passes im moving to fuckin canada

    • I’d like to say that’s a good solution but it seems like most of the people who load shows and movies and such live in the US. :(

  11. The funny thing will be to post comments with transposed hacked serial numbers on Whitehouse.gov or MPAA’s blog and then get the sites blocked using SOPA.

  12. When the internet first came out I wondered how it could survive, what with any one able to post anything. We will have to go back to the good old snail mail as of course not everyone can be trusted to do the right thing

  13. This is an awful idea. I don’t HAVE the money to pay for both the internet and TV. And I need the internet for work. And I am incredibly happy watching the shows that I love online.

    Honestly, would these people prefer that people like me not watch their material at all? I’m actually paying about the same price for the web as I would be for tv right now anyway. When we pay for television we pay for the CHANNEL service! Not the show or the movie itself! And I still see plenty of ads in videos online… I seriously have no idea what is up these a-holes’s a-holes.

  14. [censored]

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