Google, Wikipedia and other Internet companies recently staged protests due to the Stop Online Piracy Act, or better known as SOPA. For those that don't understand what SOPA is let me explain. US based websites can be shut down for selling pirated content by federal law enforcement agencies, but the same cannot be done to foreign websites who routinely market pirated products. The SOPA legislation is being spear-headed by lobbyist who represent content groups who argue that the piracy is costing media company billions of dollars.
So if piracy is costing US companies billions of dollars why all the fuss over SOPA? To answer that one has to understand what the SOPA legislation will do. SOPA will give the Justice Department the power to go after foreign websites that are selling pirated content. The government would also be able to force U.S companies to sever ties with those sites. For content providers this is a good thing as they will be able to ensure their products are not being sold illegally at bargain prices.
Many Internet companies who are against the legislation feel that the SOPA bill is so broad that it would allow content owners to go after websites in the US that are unknowingly hosting pirated content. Many web-based companies are social media sites that thrive off of the content their members display. Most of these companies regularly monitor their sites, but it's still risky to have something fall through the cracks and be at risk of litigation.
In my view I understand the concerns of both sides on the issue of SOPA. With the current problems in the US economy we certainly can't continue to lose billions of dollars because foreign entities continue to pirate content from US companies. I also feel that successful Internet companies and start-ups shouldn't have to risk being sued if they are unable to catch pirated software that has been unknowingly placed on one of their sites.
The practical solution in my view is to put forth a bill that contains the necessary language to go after foreign entities, but also protects US based companies from being unfairly targeted. The bill could ensure that US companies have some sort of controls in place and in the event of any violation they would be warned with a requirement to have the content removed within 24 hours or risk facing some type of adverse action.
I welcome any comments or thoughts on this as it appears to be a major issue for many people.