Imagine one day your sitting at your computer and you decide to check out a video you published to YouTube.com featuring your child singing a hit pop song.
You navigate to the site, only to find out it has been blocked by the U.S. government for violating the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), aka H.R. 3261 and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), aka Senate Bill S. 968.
You think to yourself, well, I'll just go to my Facebook page and watch it. You type in the address and ..BAM! Facebook has been blocked by the government as well.
This scenario could become a reality if SOPA and PIPA pass through congress later this month. The Internet as we know it could become the victim of censorship abuse.
Your business website can even become blocked if a user posts just one link to a website violating either SOPA or PIPA.
SOPA was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in October 2011 by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors.
The bill expands the abilities of authorities and intellectual property (IP) holders to fight for copyrighted IP and counterfeit goods.
PIPA was introduced in the U.S. Senate in May 2011 by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and 11 initial bipartisan sponsors.
PIPA basically gives the U.S. government and copyright holders additional roles to curb access to "rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeiting goods."
Both bills were created to help IP and copyright holders fight online piracy, especially those websites that are hosted on foreign soil and are not under the sanction of U.S. law.
Sounds good right? The problem is, the wording in these bills is ambiguous enough that the IP and copyright holders, mainly the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), would have practically unlimited power to block access and restrict any website they found in violation, even if the website in question simply had one link in a user's comment linking to an offending site.
Also, the bills will make U.S. based Internet companies that deal with hosting sites and providing access to the Internet, including your ISP (Internet Service Provider), remove access to any offending site by redirecting the domain or shutting the website down, even if the "offense" is a song playing in the background or a movie on the television in a home video, not just piracy.
Opponents to the bills such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) say the bills potentially damage freedom of speech, innovation, and Internet integrity.
The legislation is opposed by American Express, eBay, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Human Rights Watch, Mozilla Corporation, Reporters without Borders; the founders of LinkedIn, Twitter, and FourSquare; and many other businesses and individuals across the nation, including me.
I have placed a "censor" bar over my website's logo, www.prismapixel.com, that links to a site where you can get more information of SOPA, PIPA, and the potential effects of both bills. I have also emailed congress.
Mozilla, the company behind the popular Internet browser, Firefox, has said if the bills pass, "the Internet and free speech will never be the same."
Even if the bills pass, the foreign sites that pirate the content will not be shut down. Access will simply be denied if a user types in the domain name. If a user uses the websites Internet Protocol Address (IP address), a string of numbers and periods, the site will still be accessible from anywhere in the world.
The fact of the matter is, the people who pirate movies, music, software, etc., will always find a way to continue.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) software didn't work in music. It just made it harder for me to put a song, that I legally purchased, on both my computer and MP3 player. DRM didn't work in DVDs. The pirates built their own software to bypass it.
It all goes back to the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way."
In the end, the ones affected the most are the people who legally purchase the content that these bills seek to protect.
Join the fight. Help protect our freedoms. Contact congress today.
George Anderson is the managing editor of the
Daily Dunklin Democrat