Sunday, January 15, 2012

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) should not be allowed to pass without major changes to protect freedom of speech rights

So what's the deal with SOPA?
Well, it's officially called the Stop Online Piracy Act, it is currently being debated in Congress, and is being widely panned by everyone from prominent Internet websites to President Obama.

In short, the act aims, in its own words: "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." —H.R. 3261

Sounds noble -- in overall concept; but what's not noble is that under the law, the government basically has the right to shut down access to any website if it is determined that site is hosting pirated content.

Sites that are accused of showing pirated materials could face court orders barring advertisers and companies like PayPal from working with them, prevent search engines om linking to their sites, and -- the real kicker -- force Internet service providers to block access to these sites.

You read that correctly; they wouldn't just order the content removed; they could go beyond that and prevent access to the entire site. Oh, and there are also criminal penalties too, jail and fines, etc.

A bit much, don't you think? That's just stupid; and unconstitutional.

I'm not against a rational law that would allow for better policing of pirated content online, but this is an extreme law, and when the president even says it needs to be tweaked, and not just whiny internet folks, you know something is up.

I predict changes will be made -- after all, Obama has to sign it for it to become law -- before some version of SOPA becomes a reality -- if that even happens. And if it does, let's hope it's stripped of all language that tramples the freedom of speech we enjoy in this country.

What all these people supporting the bill don't realize is that the Internet isn't a place that can be regulated as severely as the rest of the business world. Video, audio and other forms of media often go viral and are streamed on so many sites across the Web that realistic enforcement of such laws is just ridiculous. The internet is just too big to micromanage like this.

It's also the kind of thing that comes along when you have legislators who know nothing about technology trying to pass laws controlling it.

Many people, of course, are not happy with this power grab attempt by the government, and protest efforts are taking shape.

To learn more about efforts by prominent Internet sites to fight SOPA, click here


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