SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill before the United States House Judiciary Committee that would end the Internet as we know it. It would crush innovation by setting up a “blacklist” of sites that would be deindexed from search engines and be removed from American-based DNS services. It would destroy the freedoms and civil liberties guaranteed in our constitution by introducing felony charges for streaming potentially copyrighted material. It would end the Web as we know it.
SOPA might pass even though a lot of businesses depend on the Internet and they have lots of influence in Washington. Take Google, for example, the owners of YouTube and the most popular search engine in America. If SOPA passed, YouTube would be almost immediately delisted from search engines and deregistered from its DNS registry. As a result, companies like Google are more worried about their sites getting blacklisted than they are about individual YouTube users going to prison.
That’s why I think it’s likely that the blacklist will be removed from SOPA, but the rest of the bill will pass and nobody will shrug: Non-copyright businesses oppose the blacklist but they don’t oppose the felony charges. Adding the blacklist was a trick by lobbyists and their politicians to divert attention away from introducing felony charges for non-copyright infringement.
Thus, if the blacklist gets removed from the bill, grassroots opponents might be tricked into feeling they’ve succeeded when in reality the blacklist proposal was used as a Trojan horse to bring in felony charges for non-commercial infringement and destroy our freedoms from within.
Regardless of its final form, SOPA cannot pass. SOPA destroys our freedoms and makes something that almost everyone does a felony. SOPA forces innovative companies to move overseas or risk expensive lawsuits in the United States. Blacklist or not, SOPA is wrong and needs to fail.
But what can you do, as a single individual? For one thing, if you’re a citizen and not disenfranchised for copyright infringement (some states disenfranchise felons for life, and 48 disenfranchise them while they’re in prison) you can choose to not vote for any candidate who votes for SOPA. If you don’t like any candidate for the pro-SOPA candidate’s office then you can leave that office blank and vote for everything else.
Votes matter, and voting is the single biggest thing you can do to stop future acts like SOPA, but the next election is a year away so it may be too late by then. However, you can use direct action to take the fight to SOPA supporters: Boycott websites and companies that support SOPA.
You can find out if a site supports SOPA with a simple plug-in by MaxCDN. The plug-in checks a list of sites whose owners are known to openly support SOPA. When it finds a site that supports SOPA, it delivers a warning so that you can decide to warn others about the site or launch a boycott.