What do SOPA and PIPA really do?

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Since Wikipedia is blacked-out, how are we supposed to find out what SOPA and PIPA really do?

Well the best resource I have found is from a website called lifehacker.com.

Here is a pretty decent explanation of the bills (and helpful links to them directly) from the article, “All About PIPA and SOPA, the Bills That Want to Censor Your Internet” by Adam Dachis  

SOPA and PIPA were initially designed to do two things. The first was to make it possible for companies to block the domain names of web sites that are simply capable of, or seem to encourage copyright infringement. This would have been bad for everyone because such a measure doesn't actually prevent piracy. The reason that blocking a domain name isn't effective is because any blocked site can still be accessed via its numeric IP address. For example, if lifehacker.com were blocked, you could still find it by visiting a number-based address. In fact, before the bills were even supposed to come to a vote, tools were created to automatically route domain names to their IP addresses to completely render this measure of SOPA and PIPA useless. As a result, the IP-blocking provisions have been removed from both bills.

The other, still-active measure present in the SOPA and PIPA bills would allow rights holders to cut of the source of funding of any potentially infringing web site. This means any other companies doing business with this site would have to stop. Whether that means advertising, links in search engines, or any other listings would have to be removed.

There is, however, an important difference between SOPA and PIPA. SOPA targeted any site that contributed to copyright infringement, even if it was simply facilitating the act by providing a tool that could be used for illegal purposes (regardless of intention). PIPA, on the other hand, requires the targeted site to have no significant use beyond copyright infringement. Basically, PIPA can only be used to censor a site if it's more likely to be a source of illegal content than not. This is still problematic because a tool designed to accept user-generated content is, to some extent, at the whims of its users. If infringing content is found, rights holders already have the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to help them request the legal removal of that content. They also have the ability to sue infringers for damages, as we've previously seen with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) when they, for example, sued a 12-year-old for downloading music. SOPA and PIPA provide a means to censor the tool that provided a means for the infringing content to exist on the internet rather than the content itself. This puts a lot of power in the hands of rights holders and has significant potential for abuse.

Please share and read the whole referenced article, and as the article says, “Let's End the Fight and Start a Discussion.”  Now.

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About Author

Chaille Jolink

Chaille Jolink was born and raised in Austin, Texas and has more than a decade of experience working in Texas politics. Her interest began when she was a Senate Messenger in 2003, and she’s since worked for several different legislators and candidates. She started reporting in 2007 for GalleryWatch.com, and has been a contributor to several different publications. Chaille is a graduate of the University of Texas and enjoys fashion, baseball, and playing any team sport. Chaille tweets @ChailleMcCann.

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