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The "Stop Online Piracy Act".
The SOPA is "Stop Online Piracy Act" but is actually an attempt by corporate USA to get rid of The Internet. Initially, it's an attempt to restrict, censor, regulate, and control The Internet. This is against Freedom of Speech. It's a big International issue. In the longer term, it could be The End.
The SOPA could be a look-ahead sign of an oncoming war between the USA and The Rest Of The World. This could also have been predicted by the miscellaneous anti-terrorist nonsense and the war-against-this and the war-against-that and the invasion of a few countries with almost no excuse at all.
It is very odd that it would be the United States that would be the country that declares war against Freedom in the International World, as historically the USA has been a place where Liberty has been fought for, campaigned for, and talked about to a great extent. There's even a statue for it.
Here's the history of the SOPA and PIPA problem:
Initially, it might seem a good idea to eliminate "Piracy". Piracy is wrong, but it's not the ultimate crime. Piracy is not theft. Theft is stealing something and depriving the rightful owner of it. Piracy is making a copy of something, leaving the owner with the original. It's still wrong, but it's not theft (contrary to the propaganda distributed by copyright extremists). More about copyright here.
Now the thing about piracy is that there is a well-intentioned idea to get rid of it. However, this does not excuse the extremist clamping down on freedom which SOPA and PIPA legislate for. (PIPA is "Protect Intellectual Property Act"). SOPA and PIPA would mean that anyone could accuse a website of linking to places that link to other places which might have "pirate stuff" on them, and then the sites could be closed down. For example, Google could be closed down for having any site appearing in the listings on a search. Wikipedia could be closed down because the existence of various things is mentioned. And so on. No-one is safe. If you have a website and it links to Google, for example, you could be classed as guilty of allowing a link to pirates purely because pirates are somewhere in the searches. For any website of any significant size, it would be impractical to avoid linking to places which link to other places which might include "a pirate".
Is anyone safe?
Yes, but the places that are not safe are:
1. Anyone with a .com , .net , .org , or .us domain. Website domains which are in the United States can be closed down anytime.
2. Anyone whose hosting is in the United States
Other Internet resources are safe. To be safe from persecution, a website needs to be hosted outside the USA and have a domain which is not .com , .net , .org , .us (which are controlled by the USA).
The consequences of this SOPA and PIPA nonsense are that anyone who wishes to be safe from persecution will have a domain outside the USA and hosting outside the USA. In effect, the United States will be a place to avoid, a bit like the air travel question of No Transit of The USA. The Internet will regroup and reshape, with the USA having abdicated its role in having much say in The Internet. There'll be a Real, Substantial, International Internet, and also an inferior version which is the US-version.
It's only fair to point out that folks do not want this to happen. An online vote says 98% are against SOPA and 2% for. Also 97% are against PIPA and 3% for. Folks in the United States don't want SOPA and PIPA. It's not the citizens of the United States who are to blame. It's the government, and especially those factions within the United States government that are controlled by corporations which have extremist pro-copyright attitudes.
On January 18th 2012, Google put up a blanked-out banner on searches originating in the USA, and on that day, Wikipedia went on strike and made a big thing of the SOPA problem. The campaign is documented at such places as www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2087673/Wikipedia-blackout-Google-joins-day-darkness-SOPA-protest.html and www.sopastrike.com and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:SOPA_initiative/Learn_more and even www.google.com/landing/takeaction/
It's important that we don't ignore the problem. For one thing, we don't want the United States to become a pariah-state backwater that international business eschews. But more importantly, we don't want the Internet to be damaged by stupid attempts to restrict it. Down with Internet Censorship. Remember what happened to South Africa when the government tried to insist on maintaining racialist laws? The Rest Of The World boycotted the place until there was reform. If the USA tries to inflict SOPA on the Free World of the Internet, the USA could become a no-go place like old South Africa. If you think this sounds a bit extreme, well, it's just a matter of the way consequences work. People who insist on having freedom, for example Wikipedia, Google, etc, or to put it another way, most places, would go offshore. (Also all the pirates would go offshore as well, but that's a minor point). The thing is that Freedom is such an important issue that people will emigrate because of it.
To see the way consequences come back to bite the people who impose bad laws, take a look at the New York Amazon Tax. Although initially the authorities inspired by greed attempted to grab a piece of Amazon's turnover, the result was that the affiliate market reshuffled and Amazon had no affiliates in New York. This put the attempt into a negative profit situation. Or to put it another way, they shot themselves in the foot.
To avoid the USA shooting itself in the foot, it's important that people lobby the government to stop being so silly. It may be that SOPA can be abandoned, and that would be good.
However, if the government is so stupid as to pass the SOPA law, then the consequences will occur. People, and there are quite a lot of them, will make their choices, and the money will move where the freedom is.
The sort of thing is highlighted ahead of time in this article... www.techdirt.com/articles/20120113/09184917400/us-to-extradite-uk-student-copyright-infringement-despite-site-being-legal-uk.shtml
This also points to the obvious USA Extradition Problem