TL;DR: Write your Congresspeople to oppose SOPA – it takes less than a minute!
There’s a new bill aimed at stopping piracy, and it is extremely dangerous to the Internet’s health.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes it easy for IP holders to, if they see infringing content on any other website, stop online ad programs and block access to credit card payments without appearing before a judge or any sort of court order.
A refresher on how it works now: under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), if an IP holder finds infringing content somewhere (say, on YouTube), they can file a takedown notice to YouTube and YouTube is required to respond unless the person that posted the content objects (in which case presumably the IP holder will sue). YouTube is a good example of a “safe harbor” under the DMCA – as long as they respond to takedown notices, they’re not required to police their own content. Which is a good thing, because it’s nearly impossible to guarantee that no one is posting any sort of infringing material on your site.
Under SOPA, though, just one piece of infringing content anywhere on the site gives the IP holder power to block the entire site, possibly even including messing with the site’s DNS entry. This is someone akin to bombing a city block because some guy is selling shady-looking DVD’s on the corner.
There’s lots of other bad stuff in it, but that’s the upshot. Many people involved with the creation of the Internet (including Vint Cerf, one of the “fathers of the Internet”) have written an open letter warning about it. Even the Business Software Alliance, who only exists to stop piracy, has serious reservations about it. Many Silicon Valley founders have also written an open letter blasting SOPA. Reddit has said they may have to shut down if it passes.
So: please write your Congresspeople! The bill is still in committee, but is scheduled to be voted on (to go out of committee) on Wednesday…the good news is that it seems like the backlash is having an effect, but as many people as possible need to let their legislators know that this bill is bad, bad, bad.