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Why all internet users should care about the SOPA debate

January 18th, 2012

Why all internet users should care about the SOPA debate

Wikipedia is the go-to resource for many internet users looking for answers to various questions – but today, the online encyclopaedia is operating a blackout on its website in protest against the US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

The bills have been drawn up to try to stop foreign websites committing copyright infringement, ranging from films to counterfeit designer goods, but Wikipedia – and several other websites – believe the legislation will prevent free expression online.

But, what has this got to do with British internet users? Well, according to Wikipedia, the deployment of such powers could set a dangerous and oppressive precedent and not actually achieve the main point of the legislation.

Make sure your online content is unique to your brand. Call Jacey on 02075172240 to find out how NewsReach can help."[The bills] put the burden on website owners to police user-contributed material and call for the unnecessary blocking of entire sites. Small sites won't have sufficient resources to defend themselves. Big media companies may seek to cut off funding sources for their foreign competitors, even if copyright isn't being infringed," it said.

Foreign websites may also not show up in search engine results. This, of course, has troubled Google. Its chief legal officer and senior vice-president of corporate development David Drummond asserted that while it is important to fight piracy, there are better ways to go about it.

The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act was highlighted as a much better approach, which protects the right to enjoy an open internet.

Mashable's Chris Heald explained that even if a website is not conducting copyright infringement itself, if it is seen to facilitate this – perhaps through advertised retailers or content contributors – it could potentially be shut down.

In addition, sites deemed as breaking the law would have to be blocked from search results like Google's, while payment providers such as Visa and PayPal would be obliged to terminate their contracts with the website.

As expected, organisations like eBay, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo! and LinkedIn are against SOPA and PIPA.  On the other hand, many brand name manufacturers, large music and movie producers and medicine companies are for the legislation.

Chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd asserted that the Wikipedia blackout was a dangerous gimmick "designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals".

If the bills are passed, they certainly will change the internet forever, whether for good or bad. And this is why the pieces of legislation should be cared about by all internet users.

What do you think about SOPA and PIPA and are you for or against the legislation?

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