SOPA is not good news for the Internet

By | January 1, 2012

I’m sure you would have heard about SOPA by now, but if not, it stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, and is a recent bill tabled in the US House of Representatives on October 26th, 2011.  Although SOPA at the surface seems to be for a good cause, in that its objective is to fight content piracy, yet if you look closer, it is a dangerous piece of legislation that if passed, will have a lot of potential to disrupt the Web as a whole.

The bottom line is that SOPA makes it possible to take down almost any website on copyright infringement grounds without even going through any proper due process; it’s a shoot first, talk later approach. Under SOPA, any website can potentially be taken down, or blocked, if just a small percentage of its pages host copyright material, or even if it links to such sites. If the previous DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) was at least quite workable in practice, SOPA can now be likened to using a shotgun approach to go after flying mosquitoes. Yes, mosquitoes are no doubt annoying, but you don’t deal with them using a shotgun!

The wording in SOPA is quite broad and vague, so its scope to cause a lot of collateral damage is huge indeed. It goes without saying that virtually all the large Web based companies that create content in one form or another, is opposed to SOPA, while many record labels and large businesses unfortunately, support it. Godaddy initially supported it, but after a boycott Godaddy campaign in which many people moved their domains out of Godaddy, they seemed to have done an about-turn.

I am sure at least 95% of web surfers all over the globe would disagree with it if only they were made aware about it. 2012 may well start off with such a damper if the US Congress moves closer to approving the bill when they convene sometime in Jan 2012.

One suggestion that seems workable would be for the top Internet companies to have a “mass blackout” day, but I think the will to do it seems to be lacking – for want of a better word. There isn’t much time before this law is passed, and those who oppose it really need to get their act together, and soon.

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