Seemingly overnight, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) proposed by the U.S. Senate has rocked the online world. The controversial bill inspired a 24-hour outage of numerous U.S. websites, including Wikipedia, and has even been criticized by President Barack Obama. Many of the president’s advisors claim the bill will only make online businesses more vulnerable to lawsuits, while also impeding legal activities and endangering freedom of expression. In the midst of all the emotion, it’s important to ask…What are the arguments against this “soup”?
First and foremost, under SOPA, the U.S. Department of Justice would have the power to investigate, prosecute, and shut down any individual or company accused of uploading copyrighted material, both inside and outside the country. The law would also compel U.S.-based search engines, domain hosts, and advertising companies to block services to any site under investigation by the Department of Justice for breach of copyright. As a result, many analysts predict that this legislation would prompt cloud computing and web-hosting companies to move their operations outside the U.S., in order to avoid lawsuits. In addition to the economic consequences, all the above would also pose serious threats to Americans’ first amendment right to freedom of expression.
The public outcry and numerous protests surrounding these concerns have so far had one major consequence: the Senate has decided to indefinitely delay its vote on this controversial bill. For now, SOPA will have to wait.