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Pirates v. Congress: a stalemate?

On the morning of 18 Jan. 2012, the sun rose upon a world of angry protestors complaining about how their constitutional right to privacy was being violated by “Big Government.” Facebook feeds were filled with angry statuses and comments regarding the two proposed bills in Congress: SOPA and PIPA.

The frustration was not limited to people across the web. Dot.com organizations like Google and Wikipedia were also expressing their staunch disapproval of the bills. Google censored its iconic logo with a black box, while Wikipedia implemented a blackout of all its English-language pages.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the bill being considered by the House of Representatives. Its sister bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), is currently being considered by the Senate.

Both of the proposed pieces of legislation are designed to tackle online piracy, with particular emphasis on illegal copies of films and other forms of media hosted on foreign servers. Both bills clearly state that any person, or body of persons, found guilty of streaming copyrighted content without permission 10 or more times within a six-month window could face up to five years in jail.

The government and holders of the pirated copyrighted material would have the right to seek court orders against any Web site accused of “enabling or facilitating” piracy. This could theoretically put entire Web sites at risk of being shut if they so much as contain a link to a suspect site.

U.S.-based Internet service providers, payment processors and advertisers would be banned from doing business with alleged copyright infringers. SOPA also calls for search engines to remove infringing sites from their results, a provision not included in PIPA. In addition, the bills would make it illegal for Web sites to share information about how to access blocked sites.

Among the most ardent supporters of SOPA and PIPA are television networks, music publishers, movie industry bodies and book publishers and manufacturers. They argue that these measures are necessary to protect against continuing violation of both ownership and creative entrepreneurship.

Opponents of SOPA and PIPA, including Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, eBay and Yahoo, suggest that the bills give the U.S. government too much power over the “free spirit” of the Internet.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, along with his Democratic colleagues, chose to delay voting on PIPA. The overwhelming negative feedback from the public was seen as a referendum. As this is a critical election year for both parties, neither side was willing to risk their already-low public ratings by taking a stand.

Source: BBC News

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