T he 'Stop Online Piracy Act' threatens to change the face of the Internet forever. If you haven't heard about it yet, then one can safely deduce that you've been living under a stone. Internet giants and websites have come together as one in an unprecedented show of opposition to the American bill. 18th of January, 2012 witnessed the blacking out of some of the most popular websites in the world and opposing messages on others.
The English version of the world's largest online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, went offline on Wednesday as a protest to the “oppressive” act.
After Wikipedia's initiative, all hell broke loose. For the first time Google decided to put a message supporting the protest against SOPA on the world's most expensive virtual space, the Google search homepage. Millions have signed Google's anti-SOPA petition.
The largest community for smartphone hacks and development of apps, XDA Developers also joined the cause. Due to the popularity of the site in the developer community, over 50,000 petitions were signed within a matter of a few hours!
Flickr, the online photo sharing site, also joined in by allowing users to darken up to 10 photos each for a period of 24 hours.
Pirate Bay seems to have a very interesting approach. It simply declared that the bill will not stop it's activities. (After the recent arrest of some it's senior officials, one would think they would practice a little more caution).
Mozilla has also joined the ranks with a blackout on its site and a message on the Firefox browser homepage.
Founder of everyone's beloved social networking site, Facebook, wants in on the action. Mark Zuckerberg expressed his views on SOPA through his twitter account.
Other websites and online services like theoatmeal.com, boingboing.net, damnlol.com, reddit.com, twitpic.com, wired.com and wordpress.com have also made their distaste for the bill known by simultaneous blackouts on Jan 18th.
Though this was quite a thrill, the rage that took the virtual world by storm and united it under one banner (no, not Google, we still mean the anti-SOPA campaign), do we really know what is it about the act that has so infuriated the world wide web?
Here are some of the sections of the bill which were brought to our notice:
This section is very righteously titled, "MARKET-BASED SYSTEM TO PROTECT U.S. CUSTOMERS AND PREVENT U.S. FUNDING OF SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY."
"'Internet site is dedicated to theft of U.S. property' if [a portion of the site is US-directed] and is used by users within the United States and is primarily designed or operated for the purpose of offering services in a manner that enables or facilitates [copyright violation or circumvention of copyright protection measures]."
In other words, it virtually (ironic) means that sites like Google, You Tube, Dropbox and many others would be purely dedicated to theft of U.S property. No seriously, we are not making this up!
This is another mind rattling clause. Although reading the entire clause is necessary, for now let's go over the worst parts. According to section [(b)(2)] and [(b)(1)], ad networks and payment providers are to cut off all services to the accused site upon receiving a claim from the copyright holder. This is to be done within five days. Unless, a counter notification is received by them from the accused site before the suit was filed. (Excuse me?)
Note that the authorities are not responsible to notify the party that they have been sued!
The only 'way out' is if you prove beforehand that you're either a foreigner or do not fit the criteria of an 'infringing site'. But wait, "Any provider of a notification or counter notification who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section...that such site does not meet the criteria of an Internet site dedicated to the theft of U.S. property shall be liable for damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the person injured by such misrepresentation as a result of the misrepresentation".
So if you do fit the criteria of an 'infringing site', YOU LIED! PERJURY!
If you still miraculously manage to give a counter notice, but the service provider or the ad network does not cut off services to the accused site within five days, the accusing party can file a law-suit against you. In case you happen to be out of town you'll be facing an 'in rem' law-suit.
So there's the rock and then there is the hard place and somewhere in between there's you.
What you read is just a fragment of the entire Stop Online Piracy Act; a mere trailer of a nightmare. Let's hope that either the U.S. Senate, or we, wake up soon.