General Thoughts About SOPA and How It Intends to Break the Internet

What if uploading a funny YouTube video was illegal? What if posting an image about one of your favorite TV series was not allowed? This may seem utterly absurd and even ridiculous, but as many of you may have heard, if SOPA becomes a law this could be part of our near future.

The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bill that was first introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011 by Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and as it name clearly indicates it will try to stop piracy and protect intellectual property. The main objective of the bill is to protect movies, games, music, basketball matches and other content from being distributed free of charge by foreign websites.

The bill can be read here.

Although in theory the bill has a noble cause, it could end up punishing any site that hosts content like video, music or images. Basically, if a particular website is accused of copyright infringement that site in particular could be blocked, empowering companies to censor certain sites, blacklisting domains, refusing PayPal payments to its owner and so on. It should also be noted that the bill is currently way too broad, so as of right now, posting some else’s screenshot or uploading a short video could be considered copyright infringement. SOPA could potentially ruin the internet and sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Flickr or Vimeo are extremely likely to shut down if the bill becomes a law.

Additionally and as indicated by multiple sources, the methods that could be applied to those websites that use unauthorized copyright content would violate the First Amendment and are considered censorship, threatening free speech and pretty much destroying the internet.

Are you willing to sacrifice videos like this? I don’t think so.

It should be noted that one of the main reasons for the creation of SOPA is blocking popular torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, ISO Hunt or similar websites that facilitate the distribution of copyrighted content. The problem with the bill is that not only would it affect those sites in particular, but pretty much every other site on the internet (including this personal blog that you are reading now.) Both the movie and the game industry have been trying to shut down torrent sites for years and it’s not very surprising that most of these companies are supporting SOPA, the problem is that if the bill is poorly executed it may break the internet.

These are some of some of the companies that oppose to SOPA: Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla Firefox, Reddit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Disqus, Etsy, foursquare, Kaspersky, PayPal, Zynga, Wikipedia, CloudFlare and Hostgator.  On the other hand, the bill has many supporters such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, CBS, The Walt Disney Company and Wal-Mart among many others.

Furthermore, here’s the list of some of the video game companies that oppose to the controversial bill: Epic Games, 38 Studios, Mommy’s Best Games, Trion Worlds and Major League Gaming. Unfortunately and apart from Epic Games, the list doesn’t have a lot of recognizable games. The last video game company to oppose to SOPA is Riot Games, which you may know as the developers of League of Legends. Apart from explaining the reasons why they are against it, the company also clarified how it affects the players (this post was taken from the official forums):

“How would SOPA/PIPA impact League of Legends players?

– Kills streaming. If any single streamer plays copyrighted music (or alt tabs into a movie or other owned content) on their stream, there is a significant risk of the entire streaming service being taken down. In some cases, it could even result in criminal penalties for the streamer.

– Threatens independent content creation. Services we all use to create and share League of Legends related content, such as YouTube, Reddit, DeviantArt, streaming websites such as Own3d and Twitch, and more would be at risk of shutting down or greatly restricting the scope of legitimate content allowed on their sites.

– Attacks our community. Aspects of our service such as the official forums and potentially even in-game chat, could be taken down or have their features reduced based on user behavior.

– Other harmful effects. SOPA/PIPA undermine established intellectual property legislation like the DMCA, raise serious constitutional free speech issues, and could even compromise the basic security infrastructure of the internet.”

If you are against SOPA and you want to show your discontent against it maybe it’s time that you show your concern talking about it with your friends or by simply sharing this article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social networks.

For more information about SOPA you may visit Wikipedia.