SOPA, PIPA, What’s All the Commotion?

You may have heard the newest buzz words of “SOPA” and “PIPA” and wondered what all the commotion was about. To help you get up to speed, here is a recap of what has been happening and a definition of the most popular buzz words.

What are SOPA and PIPA?

  • SOPA, a.k.a. the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and PIPA, aka. the Protect IP Act, is a bill in the U.S. Senate.  Both are aimed at limiting piracy and copyright infringements, with a main target on foreign websites.  We most often hear of copyright infringements on media (e.g. TV, movies, music), but it also applies to counterfeit medication and consumer goods. An example of such site is The Pirate Bay (thepiratebay.org).
  • The legislation has two methods to fight piracy. The first method is requiring Internet Service Providers (or ISPs) to block access to infringing domains.  Thus people like you and I cannot access it. The second method would be limiting funding to the infringing sites via court orders to disable search engines directing to that site, or advertisers and payment providers working with those sites.
  • SOPA PIPA legislationWant to read the bills?

That sounds great, so what’s the issue?

  • The main issue is what happens if a site is ear-marked as infringing on copyrighted materials, but in actuality it is not.  No one gets hurt except the site, and that can cause major damage. Many argue that this bill does not do enough to protect against false accusations. This could be used as an excuse to censor websites, potentially for no solid reason.
  • The most general issue is that there are concerns that this bill would increase operating costs and limit innovation. Higher operating costs means either you increase end user costs, or innovation and expansion within the technology communities is reduced.

The SOPA and PIPA timeline

  • May 12, 2011 – PIPA introduced to Senate
  • October 26, 2011 – SOPA introduced to House of Representatives
  • December 2, 2011 – OPEN act was introduced as an alternative to SOPA and PIPA
  • December 2011 to January 2012 – major discussions surrounding both pieces of legislation. Some parts were removed, representatives and senators have taken sides. Protests took place with major sites going dark in anti-SOPA and anti-PIPA support. President Obama even weighed in.
  • January 18, 2012 – 48 senators support  PIPA, 6 are against it, 46 are unknown, and there are 40 co-sponsors; 32 representatives support SOPA, 25 are against, and 376 are unknown.
  • There is still a long way to go.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming months!