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SOPA-IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERNET USERS First off, what is SOPA?

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) sponsored by an American politician, Lamar Smith, and 12 other bi-partisan politician would basically seek to ensure that the U.S. Department of Justice can pursue legal action against websites that are seen to be: i) Infringing copyright laws ii) Supporting copyright infringement (hosting websites that provide pirated material like many peer to peer networks) iii) Prevent the sale of counterfeit goods Companies found to have violated intellectual property laws would then be cut off completely from doing business with anyone including hosting ads on their site, being hosted, or receiving any payments. Search engines would for example be prohibited from linking to them or listing them in search results. Internet service providers would also be prohibited from providing access to those sites that have been blacklisted. The penalty for the violator would be a maximum of five years in prison and the domain name of that website would be erased from all search engines. The copyright holder would pursue justice by notifying all companies operating or facilitating payments to the violating website and these companies would then suspend the services to the violating website unless it can counteract the infringement claims. This bill if it becomes law would place the burden of detecting copyright infringement on the website owner as opposed to a previous law where the copyright owner had that responsibility of requesting copyrighted material to be removed. Background to SOPA The SOPA aims to protect Intellectual property by criminalizing illegal distribution of copyrighted work. It builds on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) proposed earlier in 2008. The U.S. argues that in order to foster creativity and innovation, intellectual property must be protected so that copyright owners have an incentive to continue to innovate. Indeed the full title of the law is: "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." Proponents further add that by aggressively protecting intellectual property, this will provide more revenues to artists and other creative professionals, further building the economy. A list of companies supporting SOPA can be found here: https://sites.google.com/site/boycottsopasponsors/home/list-of-supporters-andsponsors

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If it sounds so good, why are so many against it? While proponents (which mainly includes a coalition of music and film producers in the U.S.) for SOPA compare this law to the same law which criminalizes theft of physical property for example from a home, a mass anti-SOPA movement has grown in the last three months since it was proposed, voicing concern that the bill amounted to Internet censorship, violation of freedom of speech, and would gag whistleblowers like Wikileaks for example. The mass protest included boycotting companies that supported it- most popularly GoDaddy a major website host which went against the tide and made an official statement supporting the bill. The companies that would most likely suffer under this law are mostly those that enable users to generate and upload content like videos, pictures, music, especially YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr Facebook and File sharing networks. Browsers like Firefox that have plug-ins or extensions that aid access to pirated materials will also be affected by this law. Firefoxs MAFIAAfire Re-director for example which sends users to a new location for domains that have been put down by the U.S government would fall under the Dead or Alive scourge that would ensure on the passing of SOPA. Other opponents (who include Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, LinkedIn, Kaspersky Lab among a list of many) have proposed that instead of strengthening U.S revenues it would actually force companies for example those offering cloud computing services to relocate from the U.S for fear of lawsuits. Not for Profit critics like the Electronic Frontier Foundation say the bill is not specific and could be misused because of its loose wording so that any frivolous complaint could potentially smear even legitimate companies with no legal recourse available for an innocent company unless the complainant knowingly filed a false claim. In addition, even if a site is guilty of only a minor infraction perhaps not attributing a copyrighted image, the whole site could potentially be put down. When it comes to privacy concerns deep packet inspection for copyright infringement would potentially enable ISPs to peruse content of information being transmitted thus exposing even legitimate but confidential/classified/sensitive data to other sources not authorized to see it. And unlikely groups like Venture Capitalists have thrown their weight against SOPA stating that they will no longer fund startups based online if SOPA is passed. Vinton Cerf, Google VP wrote to Smith, the key bill sponsor saying "Requiring search engines to delete a domain name begins a worldwide arms race of unprecedented 'censorship' of the Web". In the end, some have opined, this bill if it becomes law may see the beginning of the end of the Internet as an information tool for the masses.

ICT CREATIVES LTD 2012|ENTERPRISE TECHNOLOGY RESOURCE ARTICLE: WWW.ICTCREATIVES.COM PLOT 4667, GGABA ROAD, KAMPALA UGANDA | +256 414 266423