The virtual world, thriving on the freedom provided by internet, which allows almost free access to indefinite amount of information, shared across the globe, at just a mouse click; is at the verge of seeing many giants disappear from the WWW (World Wide Web). All this may happen, and many more, if SOPA and PIPA become reality, in their current form.
If anyone would have tried opening a Wikipedia page on January 18, 2012; he/she would have invariably ended up on a black page, promoting the blackout against the two bills on the floor of US legislation. These two bills are represented by the acronyms SOPA and PIPA, which stand for 'Stop Online Piracy Act' and 'Protect IP Act'.
What are SOPA and PIPA?
Addressing the concerns of entertainment industry against the piracy, lobbied by entertainment mega giants, which inflicts huge losses to them; legislators had come up with laws to discourage, rather bring copyright infringements to an end. The law intends to foster the antipiracy laws, coming hard on defaulters. However, what has been ignored is the impact of it, on the WWW.
In simple words, the SOPA and PIPA law intends to curb the degree of freedom available on the free and open web, vital for the existence of many social web giants such as Wikipedia, facebook, Mozilla, and many more social web based sites.
Why to worry?
Though the laws do not mean that the internet would come to an end, but it does mean that the internet users would find it hard to survive with the limitations imposed. As the law says, it is to bolster the copyright protection laws; all it means is that no more would you be able to share free information, may it be images, maps, and documents etc. everything would come within the purview of copyright infringement watchdog.
For instance, a visitor posts a link at your site which is in violation of copyright laws; this implies that your site domain name would be censored, which means a complete blackout from the WWW. This is the main concern of social networking sites like FaceBook, YouTube and Twitter.
Let's take another common and simple example: The SOPA and PIPA law says a punishment of 5 years for anyone posting copyright content on the web. Now imagine, if you wish to share your favorite song with your friends, and you upload it on YouTube, all it would mean that you have violated the law, and can be punished for the same, and or the site YouTube too can be censored for carrying the video posted by its users.
Though the SOPA and PIPA law says that it intends to bring in the sense of responsibility among sites by making them responsible for all content available on their web pages, what it does not address is that for the professional copyright infringers or pirates, this does not pose much of a problem, as only site names are censored, and not the IP addresses.
Though bigger sites may find it feasible to deploy anti piracy measures, the law would be much of a threat to small sites or business, rather than an advantage.
All this summarizes to one conclusion that though the SOPA and PIPA law is backed by noble intentions, it could have been designed with more precision, for enhanced effectiveness.