1) The Basics
The Stop Online Piracy Act (known as SOPA), introduced on Oct. 26 by twelve bipartisan co-sponsors and now before the House Judiciary Committee, is a complicated bill aimed to stopping online piracy. The Protect IP Act (or PIPA), the Senate version, seeks to do the same thing. Both allow copyright holders and the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against sites illegally hosting content (e.g. streaming feature films) or engaging in illegal activity (e.g. selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals).
2) Who Supports SOPA and PIPA And Why, As Reported By: CBS News
Content groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and business representatives like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that innovation and jobs in content-creating industries are threatened by growing Internet piracy. Overseas websites, they argue, are a safe haven for Internet pirates profiting off their content.
According to the Global Intellectual Property Center, which is part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, intellectual property-intensive sectors employ more than 19 million people in the U.S. and create $7.7 trillion in gross output. Foreign website operators currently outside the bounds of U.S. law; SOPA and PIPA would help quell illegitimate Internet activity.
In a statement, former Sen. Chris Dodd, who is now chairman and CEO of the MPAA, called the blackout day a “gimmick.”
“It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests,” Dodd said.
CBS Corporation, which owns CBSNews.com, is a member of the Copyright Alliance — an industry group representing content producers that supports SOPA and PIPA.
3) Who Is Against SOPA and PIPA And Why, As Reported By: CBS News
Internet companies and their investors would readily say that they’re holding the “blackout” to protect their corporate interests — and the entire burgeoning Internet-based economy.
“The success of Reddit… is one of the smaller examples of the success that has happened in our industry — and will continue to unless bills like SOPA or PIPA become law,” Ohanian said Tuesday.
Under the rules SOPA or PIPA would impose, Ohanian and others argue, start ups wouldn’t be able to handle the costs that come with defending their sites against possible violations. Such sites would not be able to pay the large teams of lawyers that established sites like Google or Facebook can afford.
The legislation in question targets foreign companies whose primary purpose is to sell stolen or counterfeit goods — but opponents say domestic companies could still be held liable for linking to their content. While sites like Reddit wouldn’t have a legal duty to monitor their sites all the time, “you might have your pants sued off of you” if you don’t, said Jayme White, staff director for the Senate Finance Subcommittee on international trade.
4) Who Is Participating In The Blackout?
Several prominent websites, notably Wikipedia, have faded to black (at least temporarily) in protest of the two bills. Others include Reddit, BoingBoing, MoveOn.org and others. Google supports the blackout, but is not “blacking” themselves. Google, instead, is asking its users to tell their Congressmen not to support the bills.