As if the House of Representatives had nothing better to do, several people in Congress have proposed a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA, which is basically one big booty-kiss to the entertainment industry and a major kiss-OFF to Silicon Valley, aka the big tech companies we know and love -- Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The name alone may give you flashbacks of downloading illegal MP3s on Napster and thinking the cops were going to come to your house and confiscate your PowerBook that was filled to the brim with ripped tracks by Sisqo and Dido. But this bill really has nothing to do with that ... it's much, much worse.
Here, the five scariest things about this bill that we have to hope and pray never becomes a law or else bye-bye Internet as we know it ...
- It would basically shut down the Internet. SOPA's an attempt to "help" entertainment companies (music labels, Hollywood film studios) that are fed up with people consuming their copyrighted works for free. But the way it's designed, the bill would make it possible for these showbiz giants to basically block the domain names of websites that are capable of or seem to encourage copyright infringement. See how disturbingly open-ended that is? That means that if you post a picture of, oh, I don't know, Charlie Brown with his cute little Christmas tree on your Facebook wall, Facebook could be blocked, because ABC says they lay claim to Charlie. Drrrrr.
- It would turn us all into creepy hackers. The way it is written now, with really sweeping, vague language, the bill is basically a broad assault on any or all or potential forms of online piracy. But it wouldn't really work to counter piracy at all, because it can't block IP addresses. You know, the numbers behind a website ... so ultimately, if someone who wanted to pirate knew what the IP address was for Twitter, they could very easily cut around the law, and then, what ... we'd all have to remember all these ridiculous numerical URLs and start surfing the web like sneaky criminals? Ridiculous!
- We'd have to say "bye-bye" to having fun online. Just to avoid going to court, websites accused of piracy or encouraging piracy would probably just start taking down tons of content to appease the entertainment companies. What the heck fun would that be? Bye-bye, hours wasted on YouTube!
- Cool new websites won't have a chance in hell. The next Biz Stones and Mark Zuckerbergs will be all be too freaked out that they'd be disobeying this bill without even meaning to, so there would be less creativity, innovation, freedom on the web. Sounds like a nightmare in the making!
- It gives the big guys even more power than they already have. We love movies and music, and we're often willing to pay when they're worth the $12+ ticket or $1.29/download, etc. But we love our little guys on our laptop screens just as much, and sometimes we'd prefer to watch or listen to content on Facebook, Hulu, or a friend's Tumblr. This bill would kill that experience -- so wrong!
If you want to do something about SOPA, there are various measures you can take to fight back.
Do you think this bill sounds like bad news for the Internet?
Image via Jared Tarbell/Flickr