Thursday, January 19, 2012

What are SOPA and PIPA ?

Posted by Sharath Chandra

SOPA - STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT

PIPA - PROTECT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ACT

What is SOPA and PIPA ? 
This is all because of two pieces of legislation: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and its Senate companion bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The purpose of these bills is to make it harder for sites especially those located outside the United States to sell or distribute pirated copyrighted material such as movies and music as well as physical goods such as counterfeit purses and watches. Even most of SOPA and PIPA’s strongest opponents applaud the intentions of the legislation while deploring what it might actually accomplish.

Wikipedia blacking out its services due to these acts.
In order to protest against these acts WikiPedia blacked out their services i.e. darken the services for 24hrs worldwide on Wednesday 18th 2012 which was a huge success. 

The bills aim to halt the spread of pirated content on the web by several means, which originally included taking the names of offending sites from the DNS directory — the address book for the Internet. So far, SOPA sponsor Rep. Smith said he would remove the DNS provisions from the bill, while PIPA sponsor Leahy said he would hold hearings on the issue.

Why is everyone so upset?

While the stated intent behind SOPA is to halt the spread of pirated goods and content from bad actors, the way the bills are written the punishments associated don’t match the crimes. Having pirated content appear on a site, even without the knowledge or action by the site’s owner, can lead to a site being shut down without the owner having a chance to defend itself. It also threatens content hosting sites by cutting off their money flow if they are deemed to be hosting an infringer, until they can otherwise prove they are exempt from the infringement claims. Basically it turns the American idea of innocent until proven guilty to guilty until proven innocent. For more takes on this see a publisher’s comments, a venture capitalist’s and a cloud entrepreneur’s take.

What is the argument for these bills?

The argument made by those in support of the bills is that intellectual property theft is out of hand and is expedited by the web. Current controls such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act do not offer a big enough stick to stop bad actors from sharing and spreading priated content and goods. Additionally there is an argument that counterfeiting goods not only results in losses to their original manufacturer, but in the case of food, drugs and even watches, can cause potential harm or inconvenience to the buyer if they are unaware of the subterfuge. Finally, there is an argument that the web is freaking out over the bills for no reason.