So I've been reading and hearing a lot about the SOPA bill coming up before Congress lately. I didn't really pay much attention until I saw where Wikipedia may go dark on Wednesday to protest the bill. I must confess my first thought was, "Yippee! a good day to teach databases!!" but then I decided I really needed to do some looking into this topic. What I've found is a bit disturbing.
First off, the bill is being sponsored by Congressman Lamar Smith from my area of Texas. On the surface if I understand it correctly, the bill would "Order internet service providers to alter their DNS servers from resolving the domain names of websites in foreign countries that host illegal copies of videos, songs, and photos" (from the SOPA bill section 102). Basically it seems to me that the government would have the power to go after foreign websites that host copyrighted/ pirated material. In the US there are means to stop such pirating but this bill would give the US the power to stop foreign providers. But in the process, the hosting sites in the US could be prosecuted or shut down.
So that explains why Wikipedia, Twitter, Youtube and such are all up in arms about this. Even if, in writing my blog, I refer to a site that has copyrighted material on it, I could be liable--whether I knew about the other site or not. And I think that's the part that scares people. It seems to me the Hollywood entertainment establishment is wanting to put censorship capabilties on foreign providers. And that goes against all the Internet has been since it was established.
Now I have referred to the Internet as a gigantic mess--a library with all the books strewn all over the floor is my favorite description. And the problem with the easily copyrighted material is a big one. But to pass this bill is basically throwing the baby out with the bath water--overkill in the worst way.
The most recent article I found said the vote has been tabled in Congress for now. Let's hope some cooler heads prevail and Congress takes a long look at this one before they rush to pass it.
This video from Wordpress is a good explanation of the whole bill if you need a visual.