What is SOPA?

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA for short) is legislation, that if enacted could by means of the way it’s written allow the government to censor websites, and reduce your freedom of expression.  Now, I’m not an attorney by any means, but if you want to read the full bill to draw your own conclusion, please do.

Now understanding that online piracy is a real issue today, the bill by itself, without all the extra legal mumbo jumbo has merits.  In a article posted today, Chris Heald of Mashable had this to say:

Effectively, this bill gives the attorney general the power to fully censor foreign sites that the government does not have jurisdiction to take down directly. The most immediate example is WikiLeaks — under such an order, your ISP would be forced to block your access to Wikileaks. Once the technical means to do this are in place, then it becomes very easy for this power to be extended.

Implementing censorship protocols and giving the keys to the government is a scary, scary thing, and SOPA should be opposed simply based on this provision alone.

There are many reasons SOPA is bad for us. One of the sections (201)(b)(1) expands criminal copyright infringement to include:

“…At least 10 copies or phonorecords, or of at least 10 public performances by means of digital transmission, of 1 or more copyrighted works, during any 180-day period, which have a total retail value of more than $2,500.”

And value of work can now by calculated in court as the value of the work times the number of views.

…Total retail value may be shown by evidence of the total retail price that persons receiving the reproductions, distributions, or public performances constituting the offense would have paid to receive such reproductions, distributions, or public performances lawfully.

So what does the above mean? Further into Chris Healds article about the danger of SOPA and the implications of the above, he wrote:

This means, for example, if you upload a video to YouTube of you singing a popular song, and that song might sell for $1, and your video gets 2,500 views, you are guilty of felony copyright infringement. Furthermore, you can tack on “willful infringement for commercial gain or valued at more than $1,000.”

This would make you a felon, and if a copyright holder were to bring a suit against you, would give you a criminal record that would make it virtually impossible to gain future employment, and may subject you to up to three years in prison for singing a song. You don’t have to receive any money. You don’t have to gain anything from your video. Simply receiving 2,500 views on a song you sung, which happens to have copyright held by someone else, makes you a felon.

There are many reasons SOPA is a bad idea. So many that many of the largest internet properties in the world will shut down for 24 hours on January 18, 2012.

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