Later this week, the Senate's House Judiciary Committee will vote on the 'Stop Online Piracy Act' also known as SOPA. For those outside of the US, the Judiciary Committee is essentially a filter mechanism that determines by majority if an Act/Bill should be passed through to the Senate for consideration.
We haven't spoken too much about the SOPA here at HEXUS, the Act seemed so extreme that we were unsure that it would reach this stage in the US legal system. The Act would allow the Department of Justice along with copyright holders to seek out court orders against websites accused of infringement. The Act would provide powers such as barring advertising networks or payment services such as PayPal from doing business with accused sites, along with barring search engines from indexing and, forcing ISPs to block access to such sites.
Concerns have naturally been raised, with focus on the Act's broad definitions. Amongst those concerns, for example, is blocking of websites that host small elements of legally questionable content, a popular example has referred to plug-ins on the Firefox website that could be used to enable piracy. Open Source projects could be closed down, we all know of the constant and ongoing legal quarrels over elements of Google's Android operating system. The Act would involve DNS filtering and deep level packet inspection, raising privacy concerns. The Act also would also expose companies to liability of the acts of their employees. To counter notify against a claim, websites must concede jurisdiction, something most sane owners of foreign sites are unlikely to do.
Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has been so concerned with the Act that he has proposed the site consider a total blackout in protest. Last Saturday Jimmy asked the Wikipedia community for feedback on the idea which had been inspired by the Italian Wikipedia branch, which ran a similar campaign earlier this year to great effect, seeing the Italian parliament immediately back-down on proposed changes to publication laws.
Support for the idea from the Wikipedia community has been overwhelmingly positive, though some question the appropriateness of Wikipedia taking a political stance, given that the site prides itself on producing content that is delivered from a neutral standpoint; however, as Jimmy reminds those in the US "Time is not on our side here," as the SOPA is being fast-tracked through Congress at an alarming rate.