Since its introduction to the US House of Representatives last October by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, has been the talk of the Internet. The Senate has its own version, PIPA, the Protect IP Act which strives to accomplish the same goals.
The bills would allow the US Attorney General to file court orders against foreign websites that post or link to copyright material. This means that without any formal investigation, if a website were accused of providing access to copyright material, the website would be removed from US search engines within five days.
SOPA can even make websites that publish content that is free of copyright material a target. The sites could be shut down or cut off from funding if someone were to share a link in their comments section to illegally posted copyright materal or post a copyrighted picture. The person sharing the copyrighted work could face up to five years in prison.
In the original version of SOPA, these sites would have disappeared from the Internet because they would be blocked by their domain name, making it impossible for anyone in any country to find them. Similar practices are used in Iran and China.
However, on Friday, Representative Smith said that this would be removed from the bill.
Supporters and Critics
Since the nature of SOPA and PIPA are to protect copyright material on the Web, they are widely supported by the media industry, especially film and recording studios.
Sites such as Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia are among many businesses that are against these bills. Their opinion is that these bills are unconstitutional and prevent them from being innovative and creating jobs. Many foreign businesses are also concerned that if their site is blocked, they would lose the US portion of their clientele.
To protest SOPA and PIPA, websites like Wikipedia are blacking out their US sites on Wednesday. Many social media participants have been adding tags like "Stop SOPA" or "#Open" to their profile pictures in support for a free and open Internet.
Read theletter local Elon Law professor David Levine co-wrote to Congress against SOPA.
Sources for this article include wired.com and mashable.com.