SOPA: Silicon Valley, Hollywood face off on piracy
The entertainment industry has long lobbied congress for tougher laws on piracy. It seems H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA was going to deliver the toughest penalties yet. Introduced by Texas congressman Lamar Smith, SOPA gives the government the authority to block whole websites for copyright infringement, rather than the existing system of take-down notices. This puts social websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube in particular danger as it would be all but impossible to monitor all of their users.
For a while, it seemed like SOPA was destined for easy passage in congress. But the bill’s backers did not count on a populist campaign rising in opposition to SOPA. Tech companies came together in a rare show of solidarity to fight the bill. Even Microsoft, a company that has long called for tougher piracy laws, acknowledges that SOPA goes too far. The website Tumblr’s campaign to get its users to call congress generated 87,834 calls alone. The American Censorship Day campaign sponsored by Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation was also very successful.
Has the tide turned against SOPA? With powerful congressional figures such as minority leader Nancy Pelosi speaking out against the bill as well as the energetic online opposition, its prospects for passage seems less certain. However, users on the site Reddit are not taking any chances…they are in the process of building what they call ‘meshnet’, a network that will directly connect users’ computers to provide an independent network that is under the radar and beyond the reach of SOPA if it is passed into law.