As you’ve probably heard by now, the United States government is poised to enact a sweeping online intellectual property bill within the next several months. The Stop Online Piracy Act – affectionately known as SOPA – would arguably alter the Internet in dramatic fashion. If ratified, torrent sites, like thepiratebay.org, would be inaccessible in the United States. Moreover, many speculate that SOPA could be the death knell for popular social content platforms, like YouTube, Reddit and DIGG.
And the Reddit community is fighting hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
First Things First: What Is SOPA?
In the simplest terms, SOPA aims to eradicate online piracy by giving copyright holders and federal officials the ability to shut down torrent websites that allow users to download music, movies and other media for free. Websites deemed “rogue” — both foreign and domestic — would, essentially, be forced offline within a matter of days after receiving a copyright infringement notice.
Social media and news-aggregation communities would also ostensibly crumble under SOPA, as user links to “rogue” material would trigger the draconian take-down measures outlined in the Stop Online Piracy Act.
SOPA supporters say the bill will save American jobs; opponents insist it will cause an Internet innovation slump, threaten Free Speech and usher in a new era of online censorship in the United States.
Reddit: Ground Zero For SOPA Opposition
While there is a lot of online chatter about SOPA, news aggregation site, Reddit.com, is ground zero for anti-SOPA activity and information. The issue is of primary importance to both the site’s users and administrators, because as Reddit General Manager Erik Martin put it, “[SOPA] would kill Reddit. We’re a platform, so normally we would not take a stand on any political issue, but this one would end our ability to run the site.”
Reddit users eagerly track every second of the SOPA saga and are constantly mobilizing readers into “call your congressman” campaigns. Citizen petitions birthed on the website have gone viral and garnered thousands of signatures. Most recently, Redditors realized that domain registrar, GoDaddy.com, was in support of SOPA. Outraged, the community launched a GoDaddy boycott, which hit the company’s bottom line so hard that they were pressured to publicly reverse their stance on the bill.
When asked about the community’s passionate effort to kill the bill, Martin marveled at the anti-SOPA solidarity amongst Reddit users. The “hive-mind” is on a one-track mission to stop SOPA – and Martin thinks that Reddit’s grassroots opposition to the bill will stop it from passing.
OPEN: Reddit Users’ Preferred SOPA Alternatives
Though the Reddit community is staunchly against SOPA, in a recent interview Martin explained that site executives – after consulting with several Internet lawyers – do support the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) – an alternative online intellectual property bill proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR) and Darrell Issa (R-CA).
OPEN places online piracy authority in the hands of the International Trade Commission (ITC) rather than the Justice Department. Since the ITC are already the nation’s intellectual property experts, many feel it’s better equipped to handle complex copyright issues. In short, OPEN supporters feel the bill properly targets online criminals, as opposed to average folks who are innocently ignorant of the rules.
But the Motion Picture Association of America – SOPA’s leading proponent – wants more than anything to shutdown Swedish website, thepiratebay.com. And since OPEN would not effectively squash the popular torrent site, the MPAA is not interested. Also, others feel that OPEN places unfair obstacles in front of individual artists and creators who most likely couldn’t afford the considerable ITC investigation and adjudication fees outlined in the OPEN bill.
SOPA is a hot Internet law issue. The next few months will prove interesting. If you run a website or online business that you feel could be affected by SOPA, contact the Kelly Law firm for a consultation.