SODOM & GOMORRAH: Yesterday, a group of popular sites such as Wikipedia, Mozilla, and Reddit – and some less popular sites such as this one, went dark to protest two laws currently before the US Congress. The House of Representative’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP, or PIPA for short) were written to stop copyright infringement.
Under the proposed law, American hosting companies, advertising platforms, and search engines would all be required to “stop consorting with copyright infringers.” Major players across the internet have been firmly opposed to the bills. Many sites such as Wikipedia, which rely on users to contribute content, are at risk under such a law. Entire websites can be shut down for merely linking to content that violates copyright.
Restorus joined the protest, not because we have a large audience, but because it might mean the end for many smaller sites such as this one. The bill could be a real detriment to sites that lack the resources to fully verify everybody they link to. Internet service providers would also have to block traffic to “offending sites” or face prison sentences.
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, says that SOPA supporters argue that the bill targets only “foreign rogue websites”, the reach is not limited to just foreign or pirate sites. The law is written in such a way as to allow shutting down an entire website over one offending link posted by a user, and not even the site owner.
The House and the Senate are currently considering a watered down version of the bill called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) which would focus primarily on non-American sites and (gasp) include provisions for judicial oversight. What happens remains to be seen.