There’s a lot of buzz going around about the SOPA bill as the hearing on the bill is getting closer. The hype about what it will do and how it will censor the online material is growing tremendously. A great deal of discussion has been provoked by the legislation only in the media but within the policy community and on social networking sites and Internet blogs. A lot of individuals as well as organizations are getting more and more vocal about the drawbacks it holds as well as the fact that it is against the freedom of speech. Let’s discuss what it really is before getting into the criticism part. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act. Representative Lamar Smith and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors introduced it in the House of Representatives on October 26, 2011. The purpose behind this bill is to help the law enforcement agencies and copyright holders of United States to better combat the online piracy of intellectual property. If passed, it will obligate ISP’s to filter DNS queries of what it refer to as offending websites and then render them un-resolvable. The House Judiciary Committee introduced this bill as a build up to related legislations i.e. PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the Senate's Protect IP Act of 2011, saying that this bill will modernizes the civil and criminal statutes of United States to cope up with new IP enforcement challenges and protect American jobs.
The hearing on the bill is going to take place today (Nov. 16) in the House Judiciary Committee. There is a strong likelihood that the bill will be passed due to the fact that it is backed by bipartisan majorities and powerful corporate interests in not only United States House but Senate as well. Opponents claim that if that happens then the Internet and free speech will never be the same again. Several Silicon Valley’s giants have threatened to leave the United States Chamber of Commerce over this bill as it would make Web companies liable for pirated content that appears on their sites and a few infringing links would be enough to block a website full of legal material. Yahoo quietly quit the powerful business trade group last month which supports the legislation. Another Google and the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents 2,200 firms, have warned they might go in the same direction if the legislation is not reconsidered.
Protests and dissents against the bill have reached a fever pitch today. It got a strong uplift when an open letter against SOPA bill was jointly written by the industry giants including Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, Zynga and AOL. The letter addressed the congressional sponsors of the bill urging them to reconsider the measures and it appeared as a full-page ad in The New York Times on Wednesday. Apart from this letter a lot of other websites are protesting against this bill in their own way. For example Reddit, Firefox and Tumblr drew broad black lines on their websites to protest against this proposed law. When a user logins at Tumblr you get to see that all user-generated content has been blacked out. When a user clicks on the gray lines to investigate, a message appears which tells them about the bill and encourages them to oppose it. Reddit and Mozilla have censored their logos which click through to instructions for contacting representatives. Do visit us again for the update on this legislation. Till then let us know what you think of this proposed legislation. After reading about it and viewing various protests around the web will you be opposing or supporting SOPA? Share your views in the comment field below and let your voice be heard.