The majority of internet users have perhaps by now heard the term SOPA. They may have even heard of PIP – because today many global web brands have blacked out their sites to protest against these proposed pieces of US legislation.
Journalists in the UK have described the bills going through the US Congress as local legislation for America, and perhaps millions of ordinary people are dismissing the growing protest as a geek-fest or something that really doesn’t affect their daily lives. After all, if millions of people don’t vote because they don’t think anything ever changes, why should they care about a bill that is designed to target piracy? The internet will still carry on, right?
Well, that’s where we all need to wake up and smell the coffee, because the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (so-called although it’s only a bill being debated) and the Protect Intellectual Property bill are both likely to change the internet for the worse.
This is a defining moment in modern history where the greatest living technological invention (ie, the internet) is likely to fall subject to the whims of a few lawmakers in one country. Let’s put that into perspective. An ever-expanding network of websites, softwares, social networks, email servers, video servers and more, which outpaces any individual nation’s laws could be held to ransom by just one nation.
How? you might wonder. The bills are both designed to make it illegal to distribute, copy or promote pirated content, right? But they go far beyond that. If either bill were to be passed, any blog, website or even search engine with a link to something that is deemed to be promoting piracy could mean the SOPA SWAT team switches off your server, fines you and/or throws you in prison.
Any company whose domain name is controlled by a US registrar, or whose website is hosted on a US server, no matter what country that company operates in, would be prone to aggressive action without redress.
Without redress? Surely not, you say. Well we’re talking about a country that has repeatedly extradited people without charge from other countries to stand trial – in some cases even snatched them off the streets to spirit them away for reniditioning. We’re talking about a country whose republican government are so paranoid that they used anti-terror legislation to legalise racial profiling and detention without charge or trial.
If SOPA and PIP become law, it won’t be pirates that become the victims of legislation, it will be the rest of the world.