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Understanding the SOPA Bill: For the Average Internet User

Samantha Walters

In case you haven’t heard, which seems nearly impossible, major websites, plus some 10,000 other sites, are protesting the SOPA bill. Now what is the SOPA bill exactly? First off, SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act.  If passed, the U.S. Senate and the Department of Justice have the right to shut down and make search engines remove links to sites deemed ‘copyright infringement.’

sopa bill

Mostly, SOPA is aimed at stopping domestic access and funding to foreign-based websites that offer pirated material. Essentially, this bill will cut off funding, advertising, and access to said sites. For anyone that has been on YouTube, copyright infringement on the internet is a real thing. YouTube even has different options of copyright and licensing for a person’s created material and that of others.
Now what does SOPA mean to the average internet user? Perhaps nothing. As seen by the massive amount of popular websites on strike, this bill may never happen. As of Noon, Pacific Time, House Speaker John Boehner said that legislation was not ready for a vote, only to say it will come back in a month. Some senators commented that the bill is simply not ready, while others are outright withdrawing their support claiming ‘free and open access’ to everyone. Regardless of what US Senators are preaching, the internet remains free from the SOPA bill.
But really, what does SOPA mean for the average website owner? Again, it is uncertain the effect it will have. One thing is certain, however, that websites that are on shared IP addresses may be in trouble. Imagine the internet as it is currently. A website may be on a shared IP with a small video site (imagine with me). This small video site has pirated material that SOPA has deemed unfit for the public eye. In response to this discovery the Department of Justice bans the small video site’s IP which, in turn, is your IP address. To prevent this from happening, sites may choose a dedicated IP address. Once a website owner sees the advantages of a dedicated IP address they may choose one of the other services that give them more control over their site. These services include server dedicated, colocation, or managed server.
Now what should the average website owners and users do? Well, they should do their research on the issue. Before you protest, strike, write, comment, Tweet, Facebook, or whatever it is you do, do the research. Figure out the reasons behind the bill and how it will affect you. Chances are you will find out more information about the internet and piracy laws then you ever wanted to know. Be engaged and have your own opinion on the bill before you go all gung-ho on being anti-government.

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9 Responses

  1. christina thomas

    Now this is one of the most sober assessments of SOPA I have read to date. It reminds me a bit of the whole global warming stuff, where everybody is resolutely in some camp when, as a physicist who teaches undergrads, I know it isn’t possible that even 99% of them know what they’re talking about. Every major article I’ve read on SOPA/PIPA has lambasted it; yet the little I’ve been able to wean has me wondering exactly how it’s so bad it convinced Wikipedia they needed to shut down in order to protest it. I just didn’t see the correlation, or magnitude of the purported anti-Internet purpose of the bill. I’ll be finding time to read more about it soon…

  2. Terry Crews

    Hi. Interesting and informative comments above. My thing is this: isn't it possible for both to be true? I mean, for SOPA to be a tactic lauded by the big Webmasters of giants like Technorati, Engadget etc. Granted; I can appreciate that stealing content and media is bad and the originators should be protected from it; but SOPA jeopardizes us little people because there are overseers of such a Bill that would take advantage of things in the same way Homeland Security had been accused of in the past. It's too broad a brushstroke.

  3. Sam Walt

    Thank you for the comment. I believe it is important to research any topic before you blast it. As you pointed out above, major websites protested it and it got everyone excited. The motivation of a big company to protest SOPA is to protect its own assets as opposed to the average user. Thanks for reading and good luck with your own personal research.

  4. Tommy Brean

    You know, I had never even seen it that way. All i kept hearing from my friends was that this PIPA-SOPA thing was evil-incarnate lol. Turns out a little reading can expose dogma even in the 21st century.

  5. Sam Walt

    Yeah, it is amazing what happens when you actually do your research! Prime example of what your saying is the bill H.R. 1981. I wrote a response to that too. My suggestion is still do your research before you jump onto any bandwagon especially about the internet.

  6. Sam Walt

    Terry, you have to remember it is a Bill. Every major bill has been pushed through by lobbyist on behalf of large corporations. With that said, I urge you to research the Senators who sponsored the bill and find out who their major sponsors are. Chances are the Senators’ get campaign money from some corporation that would like to see the bill passed. As for big Webmasters, why not take advantage of the press?

  7. Mike

    Damn. That makes a whole lot of sense; I never thought about the behind-the-scenes process. But when one DOES happen to think about, there have got to be thousands of bills; why do some see the light of day and others languish in the darkness? There’s little reason to think that it doesn’t revolve around money and influence; after all, just about everything else does. It would be a very interesting and illuminating project to find those senators out, and list their relevant sponsors next to their names, and submit an article about it to the Huffington Post or some other big site that wasn’t pitching a SOPA is bad reel.

  8. Sam Walt

    Mike, that would be a great article! If you do the research and write the article please let us know! I think you are correct on the reason why some bills make headline news and others don’t: money and influence. In this situation, major online companies used their power and influence to create social hysteria and a backlash against the bill hence the headline news. Every bill is created to influence and change societal norms (very dramatic word choices, I know). Just be aware of the powers of the ‘elite.’ If interested, read [i]The Power Elite [/i]by C. Wright Mills.

  9. James

    Thanks Zaton, love your article
    I don’t blame you. Government’s prying eyes make everyone un-easy, despite the-so-called war on piracy and copyright infringements. No-one really wants the bill to affect our right to privacy. Unfortunately, Government surveillance requests are up. A recent report from Google confirmed this. Sorry I couldn’t put you at ease. Keep us posted if you hear anything else on the subject matter.

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