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Today's SOPA Opera

January 18, 2012 — by Per Christensson

If you've used the Internet at all today, you've probably learned that Google, Wikipedia, and a host of other popular websites are protesting the SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) today. SOPA is a bill that originated from the U.S. House of Representatives and PIPA is a similar bill from the U.S. Senate. The goal of the bills is to help enforce copyright violations and protect intellectual property. Those are both good things, so why are Google and others protesting these bills?

The Internet organizations that oppose SOPA and PIPA point out that they are too broad and don't actually accomplish that they are intended to do. Instead, they claim the bills simply limit free speech on the Internet. For example, under SOPA, nearly every website with user-generated content (UGC) would be labeled as a copyright violator, since it is likely not all users' posts are original. Additionally, websites would be required to remove all links to other sites that may contain copyright infringing content. PIPA attempts to protect domestic websites from international plagiarism, but fails to accurately distinguish what makes a website foreign or domestic. Enforcing the new laws proposed in these bills would be extremely difficult and costly.

I have mixed feelings about SOPA and PIPA. Having dealt with dozens of copyright violators over the past several years, I would welcome anything that helps make it easier to stop others from stealing my original content. However, I agree these bills wouldn't actually help. It is simply too difficult for the U.S. government to police all the sites on the web. Instead, I think Google and other large websites actually have more power to fight against Internet plagiarism. In my experience, Google has done a phenomenal job of protecting my content by removing copyright violators from their search index. Therefore, if Google doesn't think these bills will help, I have to agree.