Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

  • Title: To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes."
  • Acronym: House Bill 3261
  •  Introduced by : Lamar Smith on October 26, 2011


  • To expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
  • Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites.
  • Imposes a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

What Proponents say?

It will protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated sites, and citing examples of "active promotion of rogue websites" by U.S. search engines, proponents assert stronger enforcement tools are needed.

What opponents say?

Proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. They say that it obviates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Libraries would be exposed to prosecution. There can be a race of unprecedented censorship of the Web.

Blackout in protests:

January 18, 2012 by wikipedia and 7000 other websites.

What actions on infringing websites:

1. U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders will be able to seek court orders against websites outside U.S. jurisdiction accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

2. Online advertising networks and payment networks can be barred to do business with infringing websites.

3. Barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.

How SOPA would bypass the DMCA?

  • The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) includes the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, that provides a "safe harbor" for websites that host content. Under that provision, copyright owners who felt that a site was hosting infringing content are required to request the site to remove the infringing material within a certain amount of time.
  • SOPA would bypass this "safe harbor" provision by placing the responsibility for detecting and policing infringement onto the site itself, and allowing judges to block access to websites "dedicated to theft of U.S. property".A single complaint about a site could be enough to block it, with the burden of proof resting on the site. A provision in the bill states that any site would be blocked that "is taking, or has taken deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability of the use of the U.S.-directed site to carry out acts that constitute a violation". Critics have read this to mean that a site must actively monitor its content and identify violations to avoid blocking, rather than relying on others to notify it of such violations.

Critics say the bills will harm the free and open internet and bring about new tools for US to censor international websites. The most controversial provision would have enabled authorities to ‘blacklist’ sites over pirated content . However, film and music industry, which often sees its products sold illegally, back the bills . White House rattled, signals President Obama would be reluctant to sign SOPA in its current form. (inputs: Wikipedia)

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