It’s safe to assume that by now you’ve heard about SOPA, PIPA, or the Wikipedia-led internet blackout that took place today. However, it may be unclear exactly what SOPA and PIPA are designed to do, and how their passing might affect the internet community. In the interest of remedying that, we’ve pulled together some of the best, most informative explanations of what SOPA means to us.
[I want to be clear: Grizzly Bomb is an opinion-based site. While we report often on entertainment news, this is a platform for our staff to share our thoughts and reactions to the content we are passionate about. We are opposed to SOPA, and while we encourage neutral publications to remain unbiased and respect their reasons for doing so, Grizzly Bomb does not intend to imply neutrality. This is our perspective, nothing more or less.]
What is SOPA/PIPA?
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill, if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Presented to the House Judiciary Committee, it builds on the similar PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the corresponding Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA).
The originally proposed bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.
In layman’s terms, SOPA and PIPA are the latest attempt by legislators to provide the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders with unprecedented freedom to pursue legal action against websites illegally sharing copyrighted intellectual property. It would considerably increase the repercussions of infringing on copyright, in- or outside the United States.
Some of SOPA’s supporters include (From Wikipedia):
- The Motion Picture Association of America
- The Recording Industry Association of America
- The Entertainment Software Association
The Effects of a passed SOPA Bill
The bill’s main goal is to take down the rampant pirating and streaming of content like films, television and music, which honestly is a totally valid demand. As convenient and enjoyable as easy, free access to your favorite content may be, it is childish and ridiculous to ignore the fact that this is the property of companies like the MPAA or the RIAA. Whether piracy is, by definition, theft or not is besides the point.
The issue of removing and penalizing sites engaged in piracy and streaming is not the one that most of us against the bill take issue with. The problem with SOPA is that the language it uses to describe protected intellectual property is so vague that it threatens to censor perfectly legal use of copyrighted material as well. On top of that, many are quick to remember that similar copyright laws are already in place, and haven’t managed to stifle infringements in the past. The fear is that SOPA may not only prosecute perfectly legal content-sharers, but end up failing at its intended goal to take down the actual offenders. Youtube user Total Halibut explains it clearly below:
About halfway into Total Halibut’s video, he delves into the more sinister ways big businesses could exploit SOPA for their own gains. On the same topic, Jeepers Media made this video that suggests an even more sickening manipulation by SOPA supporters. Try to cope with the guy’s grating voice, because it’s important to hear what he has to say:
Here’s a concise summary of how PIPA could unfairly control and oppress the internet and its users, via Vimeo user Fight for the Future:
And probably the most comprehensive of them all, here’s a TED Talk from Clay Shirky:
For gamers – Any of you who follow the video game industry know that E3 is the biggest event for games. As well as serving as one of the biggest conventions out there, it features most of the industry’s biggest reveals, announcements and early demos every year. As you can imagine, for many publishers, developers, journalists and fans, E3 is the most important part of the year. However E3 is run by the ESA, which you may recognize as one of the supporters of SOPA, mentioned above. Many people from various ends of the games industry feel betrayed by their support of the bill, as indie games, journalists and others rely on a free internet in order to operate. If you have a stake in the video game industry in any way, as a consumer or otherwise, it’s important you see this video from Screw Attack:
While a majority of the entertainment industry is invested in seeing SOPA pass, it’s important to know that almost every internet business on record has opposed it. These are the people who understand the internet, who actually know how it functions and rely on it operating legally in order to make a profit; not as an additional stream of revenue. These are some of the companies who vocally oppose the bills (Also from Wikipedia):
- Mozilla Corporation
- the Wikimedia Foundation
Not to mention, the Obama administration stated its disapproval of SOPA and PIPA, asking “all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.”
What To Do About It
Discussion of SOPA is on pause for the time being, but is slated to resume debate in February. Meanwhile, PIPA is scheduled to go to a vote on January 24th.
If you disagree with the implications of SOPA and PIPA being passed, please check out these petitions and make yourself heard: