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What is SOPA?

Wikipedia and other sites blacked out on Jan. 18 for one reason: SOPA. But what is this bill anyway?

Sopa pipa internet censorship 2012 1 19Enlarge
Protesters demonstrate against the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) outside the offices of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Jan. 18, 2012 in New York City. (Maria Tama/AFP/Getty Images)

The term SOPA may have meant absolutely nothing to you until Wednesday, Jan. 19, when you attempted to use Wikipedia to figure out what exactly the Cuban Missile Crisis was or who won the 1959 World Series.

So what is SOPA? Other than the reason some of your favorite websites were blacked out for a day, SOPA, is the Stop Online Piracy Act, and its partner in crime is the Protect IP (Intellectual Property) Act, or PIPA. The two are bills, except SOPA is in the House and PIPA is in the Senate. PIPA was approved in May by a senate committee and is now pending before the whole senate, CNN reported. Their purpose is simple: stop foreign-based websites from selling pirated movies, music and other products, the Wall Street Journal reported.

With these bills, the federal government would have the authority to shut down US based websites that offer pirated content, although they won’t be able to do that to foreign sites. The bills will attempt to stop piracy simply from preventing US companies from providing funding, advertising, links or other assistance to foreign sites, the WSJ reported.

Read more at GlobalPost: SOPA and PIPA top backers urge Congress to continue work

While the new rules seem simple enough, many argue that this form of censorship is actually harming Americans’ right to free speech. Internet companies feel the bills will not only promote censorship of the world wide web, it will take away their ability to innovate, as well as the web’s natural infrastructure, the Washington Post reported.

Plus, the legislation is so broad in the House bill SOPA it could allow content owners to target US websites that don’t even know they are hosting pirated content, such as Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia, the WSJ reported.

The bill’s main backer is the Motion Picture Association of America, which estimates 13 percent of adults in the United States have watched some form of illegal copies of movies or television shows on the internet, which costs media companies billions of dollars.

Motion Picture Association of America, the legislation's main backer, estimates 13% of American adults have watched illegal copies of movies or TV shows online, and it says the practice has cost media companies billions of dollars.

Read more at GlobalPost: Congress to suspend SOPA: report

In response to the bill possibly being passed, internet hot sports such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing blacked out their sites yesterday in protest of SOPA and PIPA. The blackout and public outcry that followed did seem to change the mind of some lawmakers, CNN reported.

"We can find a solution that will protect lawful content. But this bill is flawed & that's why I'm withdrawing my support. #SOPA #PIPA," Republican Sen. Roy Blunt tweeted, CNN reported.

One of PIPA’s cosponsors, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also yanked his support of the bill after the blackout.

"I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act. Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet," Rubio wrote on a Facebook post, CNN reported.

In total eight US lawmakers withdrew their support from the bill, and 8 million people followed the instructions of their favorite websites by contacting their local politicians, BBC reported.

Read more at GlobalPost: White House addresses SOPA concerns
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120119/what-sopa