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SOPA and PIPA are acronyms used to mean Protect Intellectual Property Act and Stop Online Piracy Act respectively. The two bills have been trying to monitor and control the Internet and close down some websites. The acts caused heated argument between corporations and the public who seemed to disagree with the policies used.
The PIPA bill was first introduced on May 12, 2001 in the U.S. Senate by a board comprising of Senators Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Patrick Leahy. However, PIPA rules and regulations were based on a re-write of a legislation that had failed to pass. The earlier legislation was known as COICA meaning Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act that was drafted in the year 2010. If the PIPA bill passes, corporations based in the United States will have the right to take affirmative legal action against those websites that will go against the rules. The government will also be involved in identifying and taking legal action against those websites that go against the country’s copyright laws. Action by the United States government will be taken against any website, be it based in the United States or not (Lessig 24).
If the PIPA bill is approved, the government and American corporations will have the power to:
- Order shut down of websites found to go against the copyright laws set by the respective internet providers.
- Follow the legal processes and sue directories, search engines, and any other blacklisted websites.
- Order removal of advertisements on websites if they are not in accordance with American rules and regulation.
- Require any website created after the bill is passed to support the changes, otherwise the website will face legal action against it.
SOPA is also a bill aimed at preventing online piracy in America and on websites from all over the world. Unlike PIPA, SOPA was introduced by member of the United States House of Representatives Lamar Smith. This was done on October, 26, 2011, with the bill also being a review of an earlier developed legislation, which is the PRO-IP ACT drafted in the year 2008. If SOPA bill is implemented, it will work with the PIPA bill closely in handling online copyright issues. SOPA bill can hence be considered as a move by the United States government and the American corporations to blacklist and manage the distribution of copyrighted materials (Lessig 55). If the SOPA bill is passed, the American government and corporations will enjoy the following privileges:
- A court order can be given by the American Attorney General to prevent search engines, payment processors, and DNS providers from making transactions with websites found to be in violation of the set rules.
- American corporations will have the right to make a list of any websites they think will be in violation of the copyright policies set. The corporations will also have the right to check and stop any payment processes on any website if it is in violation of the laws and regulations. The blacklisted website will be given a five-day allowance to lay petitions on the infringement or suffer closure.
- Payment processors will be given the power to investigate and cut off transactions with any website as long as they provide concrete reasons for the action taken.
The technology companies that were involved in drafting the bills are in full support of their implementation. The corporations include Dell, Apple, Microsoft, Intel, and Adobe, which are members of the Business Software Alliance (BSA). After discussions and analysis of the two bills taking center stage in online discussions, some big companies like Google and Mozilla withdrew their support. They gave their reasons for not supporting the bills after they conducted further research on the consequences of the implementation of the two bills. Mozilla cited DNS filtering as the main reason for its withdrawal from supporting the two bills. The latter has earned support from other technology companies stating that DNS filtering would only lead to more online security risks. In the upcoming system extension by Mozilla, the DNS filtering would cause DNSSEC to be slowed down.
If the SOPA and PIPA bills are implemented, some notable changes will occur in the use of internet. As a result of the issuance of the power to investigate and order closure of websites, the internet will change to a hunt for any bit of copyright violation. Bloggers will also be investigated and the content of their blogs deeply analyzed, which will limit the people’s right to expression. As a result, some American citizens have heavily criticized the two bills with most of them waiting for a final verdict from the President. Bloggers from all over the world will be responsible for any contents in their blogs including the comments made by visitors. If a trademark or logo of a corporation is used by a blogger or certain website without permission from the owner, legal action is bound to be taken. This is without taking into consideration whether the logo or trademark is used in a positive or negative way. This leaves internet users vulnerable to attacks by corporations even without a genuine claim.
On most social networks, the bills will limit innovation and the level of entertainment offered. Most people uploading videos on websites like YouTube do not have permission from the record labels to do so. Some people also sing popular songs and post them on video sharing websites, which will be a violation of the law if the two bills are implemented. The site where a mock video will be posted will be under the risk of being in a blacklist of the concerned corporations or the American government. The individual who uploaded the video or audio file will also be at a risk of facing legal action from the record label that has copyrighted the song (Lessig 13).
The American government has analyzed the effects the two bills will have on internet users not only in America, but also from all over the world. The House Judiciary Committee has already decided to vote for SOPA at any convenient time. After the House Judiciary Committee agrees on the bill, the House of Representatives is left with the mandate of deciding if it should be passed. The internet community has been vocal against the SOPA and PIPA bills since they violate the privacy and freedom of speech of the citizens. Internet users should hence stay informed on the proceedings of the debates and implementation of the two bills. They may also create online petitions against the two bills.