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The Negative Impacts of SOPA on WordPress

The US government is making attempts to stop internet piracy. On the 24th of January 2012, the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), or H.R. 3261, bill will be up for a vote in the House of Representatives and that bill could change the internet as you know it. Another bill, PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), or S. 968, is up for a vote in the Senate.

The bills were originally requested by creators and owners of intellectual property and the entertainment industry. Let me be clear, I think it is very important (and only fair) that artists are paid and get credit for the work they do.  However, SOPA and PIPA appear to be big time overkill. This is why giants like WordPress and Craigslists are against the bills’ passing.Negative Impact of SOPA on WordPress

WordPress has come out in opposition of the internet censorship bill as something that will definitely damage the worldwide web for its hundreds of millions of users. Along with many other large companies, WordPress believes that SOPA will put a stop to the internet being independent and free. Here are reasons why SOPA can negatively impact the internet:

1. SOPA and PIPA hold websites accountable for the content their users post.

The two bills are meant to do away with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provision. The DMCA is the current US law which endeavors to protect any copyrighted material available on the internet. Due to the safe harbor provision of the DMCA, sites are not responsible for what their users post for as long as they take the content down once it has been reported as pirated or plagiarized and they become aware of the offending content. This means that if someone using a WordPress blog posts plagiarized content, WordPress cannot be taken down or put out of business for as long as there is a process by which WordPress takes down the offending content.

2. SOPA and PIPA will empower the government to stop sites from doing business with sites that contain or are linking to offending pirated or plagiarized content.

The bills will empower the government to shut down such sites like Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo or others which it has found to have violated the copyright laws by way of allowing the people who use the sites to upload, illegally, copyrighted content.  And for websites outside the jurisdiction of the US, the two bills will make it possible for the US government to push DNS providers to make sure they stop any resolving offending domain names. The government can force the search providers to cease returning links to any of the offending sites, and can push advertisers to cease their working relationship with such offenders.

Although copyright infringement is not something anyone likes as such activities are clearly wrong and highly illegal, the existing copyright laws and DMCA provide remedies and protection which make it possible for holders of copyrights to punish those who steal their work. As WordPress said on its blog post opposing SOPA,

“Using WordPress to blog, to publish, to communicate things online that once upon a time would have been relegated to an unread private journal (or simply remained unspoken, uncreated, unshared) makes you a part of one of the biggest changes in modern history: the democratization of publishing and the independent web.”

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