The Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation being debated in Congress has the potential to destroy the internet as we have come to know it. If passed, SOPA would require internet providers to block access to sites in other countries hosting stolen intellectual property (IP) from the U.S. It also puts any site that has even an accidental link to a protected intellectual property (IP) at risk for legal action according to the BusinessInsider and many others.
Michigan Democratic congressman John Conyers Jr, husband of convicted Detroit City Council bribe taker, Monica Conyers, not only supports SOPA, but was a co-sponsor of SOPA (H.R.3261) according to ProPublica.
Conyers support of SOPA may have been purchased for $158,574 in campaign contributions in 2010 from the Computers/Internet and TV/Movies/Music industries according to ProPublica. This is an increase of nearly $14,000 from the 2008 election cycle.
Stolen IP is a very broad and vague term. Most the leading Internet sites rely on user-generated content and links that might have protected IP on them. BI predicts that some of the web’s favorite sites may cease to exist because of the bill Conyers sponsored.
Which sites? The BusinessInsider asked anti censorship advocacy groups like the Free Software Foundation, the Electronics Frontier Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation for some answers and they projected the following (This is NOT a comprehensive list).
The experts say Reddit is a forum for linking to and commenting on content, and it’s all user-generated. As a result, some users are going to post or link to content that don’t have the rights to. Both of those are big no-nos for SOPA according to BI. Alexa ranks Reddit #115.
The virtual artist platform deviantART attracts 45 million unique visitors per month. The site allows emerging and established artists to exhibit, promote, and share their work on the web. It makes the SOPA hit list because if an artist infringes upon a copyrighted work, both the artist and the site may be subject to legal action. deviantART will have to closely censor what is uploaded on the site says BI. Alexa ranks deviantART #131.
The virtual auction house and e-commerce site eBay (EBAY) makes this list because of sellers who use the site to distribute counterfeit merchandise. The article says the site does discourage selling these types of items with policies on IP. Alexa ranks eBay #20.
Amazon (AMZN) could also be at risk due to sellers who attempt to distribute counterfeit goods. Alexa ranks Amazon #9.
Etsy, the virtual marketplace of over 800,000 active “shops” is threatened by SOPA because it allows users to buy and sell handmade or vintage items, art, and supplies according the BI. Etsy faces risk from SOPA because it will have to monitor the handmade goods it offers. If an IP holder claims to be harmed by any activity on the site, Etsy could be forced to suspend their service. That would harm all the vendors on the site and not just those accused of IP theft. Alexa ranks Etsy #162.
The BusinessInsider says YouTube is at risk from SOPA despite its effort to keep keep pirated content out. If copyrighted works are found on YouTube by an IP holder, it could mean a suspension of service. SOPA will further censor the kinds of content the YouTube community can upload. Alexa ranks YouTube #3.
Facebook also makes the experts list because if one of it’s 800 million users shares a link to a copyrighted work or to a site that is accused of infringing IP, Facebook could be held liable as well. SOPA will likely force Facebook to further monitor and censor its users. Facebook is ranked #2 by Alexa.
Like YouTube, if copyrighted works are found on Flickr by an IP holder it could result in the suspension of service. SOPA will further censor the kinds of content the Flickr community can upload. Under SOPA, any copyright violation complaint made could suspend both the site and its revenue streams according to the article. Flickr is ranked #42 by Alexa.
Over 70 million people use WordPress to publish their blog. WordPress faces risk by SOPA because the bill could mandate the site further monitor and censor the bloggers. If a WordPress site is accused of violating IP protected works or a commenter links to a copyrighted work, BI predicts that could potentially shut down all the blogs hosted on the site. WordPress is ranked #18 by Alexa.
Over 40 million people use Tumblr to share photos, poems, posts, and other creative content. Tumblr faces the same threat as WordPress according to BI. If a blogger or commenter uploads or links to copyrighted works, then Tumblr and its users could be at risk. Tumblr is ranked #40 by Alexa.
Vimeo is a video sharing website and has a reputation for being the place where creative types in the video and film industry upload their original work. However, given the user-generated nature of the site BI says, Vimeo still faces risk from users who include even a portion of copyrighted material in their film. Vimeo is ranked #11 by Alexa.
Big name sites that the experts say a at risk from SOPA include:
Google (GOOG) ranked #1 by Alexa.
Yahoo (YHOO) is ranked #4 by Alexa.
Wikipedia ranked #6 by Alexa.
Twitter ranked #10 by Alexa.
Microsoft‘s (MSFT) Bing is ranked #26 by Alexa.
The BusinessInsider concludes that the real victim of SOPA would be the startups (which Conyers says SOPA will save jobs)whose innovation will be restricted by this bill. Smaller websites may not have the lawyers to fight a bill like SOPA and other sites may not consider launching at all for fear of prosecution.