The Stop Online Piracy Act could allow the government and corporations to create website blacklists. That's enraging tech's best and brightest.
Every other tweet today has been about SOPA and American Censorship Day.
If you haven't been following tech news closely, you probably have no idea what either of those things mean.
Here's a breakdown of what's going on and why everyone is so concerned. It's a big deal for tech innovators everywhere.
What is SOPA? SOPA stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act. It is one of two bills [that were considered by congress Wednesday.] The other is the Protect-IP Act.
They are well-intentioned. They want to prevent piracy and copyright infringement. But they do so in an overly-aggressive, innovation-endangering way. They allow the entertainment industry to censor sites they feel "engage in, enable or facilitate" infringement.
The issues with SOPA:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes SOPA as the "blacklist bill" because it would "allow the U.S. government and private corporations to create a blacklist of censored websites, and cut many more off from their ad networks and payment providers."
That means the Attorney General would have the power to cut off select websites from search engines like Google. It could also cut off advertisers and payment processors like Visa from the sites. The Attorney General could essentially kill all of a site's traffic and revenue in a matter of days.
SOPA only allows targeted sites five days to submit an appeal. That doesn't leave much time for them to defend themselves before losing their site and their revenue altogether.
What tech companies and innovators are saying about SOPA:
The heavy regulation SOPA implies isn't sitting well with many of tech's best and brightest. People from AOL, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Zynga, and Facebook have all signed a letter to congress that opposes SOPA. The letter states:
"Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCA's safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industry’s growth and success. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign 'rogue sites,' we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss and share information lawfully online.
What is American Censorship Day?
The reason you're reading about SOPA so much is because congress is reviewing both acts. As such, EFF, Public Knowledge, Free Software Foundation and Demand Progress have named today American Censorship Day. They're encouraging people all over the web to fight for "Internet freedom."