Going to some of my favorite sites on the internet like Copyblogger and the Warrior Forum, and I discovered that they were down. Then I remembered, today is the 18th. The day a lot of websites were taken down to protest some Bill called SOPA.
For those of us that are not in the US, the temptation is strong to think that what goes on in that country is none of our business. And most times we are right. However, this new development is not one of those times. Yes, this is a bill that has been put before the United States Congress BUT it is also a bill that will have far-reaching effects.
SOPA is an acronym for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The purpose of this Bill is to crack down on copyright infringement. For those who have experienced the theft of their digital products, this sounds like a great initiative and should be received with a lot of praise. So what exactly are people protesting about?
Well, according to the Bill, all websites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement can be dealt with regardless of where that website is located. If this Bill is passed, streaming copyrighted material will be a crime and the owner of the website will be held liable; if found guilty, such a person can face up to 5 years in prison.
This does not seem like a big deal until you think about the fact that you do not need to stream copyrighted material on your website; all you need to do to be held liable is to approve a comment which has a link to copyrighted material.
Mashable put it succintly by summing up the effects of the Bill. According to Mashable:
- Gives the government the right to unilaterally censor foreign websites.
- Gives copyright holders the right to issue economic takedowns and bring lawsuits against website owners and operators, if those websites have features that make it possible to post infringing content.
- Makes it a felony offense to post a copyrighted song or video.
This bill turns us all into criminals. If it passes, then you either stop using the Internet, or you simply hope that you never end up in the crosshairs, because if you’re targeted, you will be destroyed by this bill. You don’t have to be a big, mean, nasty criminal — common Internet usage is effectively criminalized under this law.
If you are a non-US site, you need to be really concerned about SOPA for various reasons:
1. The Bill gives the US government the right to target your website if they think you might be in violation;
2. Your domain name can be blocked and don’t fool yourself in thinking you are out of reach simply because you are not registered with Godaddy or any other US-based domain registrar – ICANN has its headquarters in the U.S. Don’t know what or who ICAN is? They are the ones in charge of your domain names, regardless of who your registrar is.
3. If you are an internet marketer, this Bill definitely affects you. You may not be able to receive or send money online, your hosting company can suspend your account, in short you are vulnerable.
The problem with this Bill is that it is too harsh and too vague. It protects the Big name companies but if it passes, will crush the small business people on the internet. Many feel that it is extreme and must be killed – every single bit of it.
The US based sites are protesting SOPA. Whether you live in the US or elsewhere, if that bill passes, you will be affected. That is the reality.
So what can you do?
Tell as many people as you can about SOPA and get them to sign a petition here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_the_internet
This video also explains SOPA some more: