It's nearly impossible to go online without noticing something about the Stop Online Piracy Act - or SOPA. The proposed bill has outraged many people and it's why social media sites have been buzzing about the proposed legislation since it was first introduced. But just what is the proposed Act and what impact would it have on America and American's lives? As an employee of a social media agency, the proposed legislation has me concerned about the future of my industry.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261) was proposed by the Republican Congressional representative from Texas Lamar Smith on October 26, 2011. The stated purpose of the bill is "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." Proponents of the bill are claiming that they are aiming to protect copyrighted material from piracy. Detractors of the bill are claiming that the bill would violate First Amendment rights, and would be the start of an Internet censorship usually only seen in countries like China.
One of the major factors in SOPA's creation was due to concern over cross-border online pharmaceutical drug sales. International pharmacies, particularly in Canada, don't always indicate where they are based. Google lost a $500 million judgment vs. the US Department of Justice due to this, as it was judged that Google, in permitting ads to placed for Canadian pharmacies, helped to American consumers to illegally obtain and import prescription drugs, whose quality could not be certified.
The topic of intellectual property rights has been a hot button issue since the start of online file sharing. Due to the Napster era, and now the multitudes of torrent sites, the MPAA is throwing its support solidly behind SOPA. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act took aim at deleting illegal/pirated content from websites. Now SOPA is after the sites themselves that host the material.
There is no doubt at all that people's livelihoods are at stake, in both the music and movie industry. The Global Intellectual Property Center states that 19 million Americans count on some sort of intellectual property-driven sector for their livelihood. This sector makes $7.7 trillion dollars a year. Struggling writers, garage bands, and indie filmmakers all stand to gain from this legislation.
The argument against SOPA isn't concentrating on those people or what the better part of the legislation is trying to do. The argument against SOPA is over privacy rights, over the data packets which an internet service provider would have to scan to determine whether or not the information that is being accessed is in violation. The argument over SOPA is about censorship, over the government blocking websites, comparable to what China does with their Great Firewall of China. The piracy needs to stop but censorship isn't the solution.
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