From the looks of it, the government is on the verge of passing two bills that according to critics could potentially change the internet landscape as we know it. The first one is PIPA, which represents what is now infamously known as the Protect IP Act. This particular bill is essentially a revised version of the COICA bill that was shot down in 2010.
The second one, which was just introduced on October 26, 2011, is the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA. With this bill, lawmakers have been able to garner bipartisan support, in addition to support from the entertainment industry and various other entities. While both have similar goals, PIPA is closest to becoming a reality, as it is up for the Senate’s consideration after the holiday break. Some observers believe that some form of the bill will eventually be voted into law.
Voice of the Internet Community?
If you don’t know by now, both of these bills have been heavily criticized by notable members of the internet community. The overall consensus from their biggest opponents has been that, if passed, these bills would invoke censorship that restricts freedoms from social media and video to advertising and search. Several parties have been vocal in their opposition of the proposed legislation, and one of the loudest voices belongs to none other than the search company Google itself.
Google wasted no time expressing how it felt about the Protect IP Act when it was first introduced. Back in May, in an interview with Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and current chairman warned the government that the passing of these laws could set a precedent that leads other countries to follow the trend of infringing on free speech rights. He even let it be known that Google would fight against the passing of the bill, and continue the battle in a legal setting should it ever pass officially.
Never at a loss for words, Schmidt recently suggested an alternative to the government’s proposed anti-piracy legislation. While speaking at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Affairs (an institution which, by the way, is a huge Google supporter with over 90,000 Gmail accounts under its belt), Schmidt said that the right solution to the problem is to quote “follow the money.” He went on to explain by stating that lawmakers should use their authority to make it illegal to profit from stolen content, opposed to making rules that potentially compromise innocent parties.
Battle Lines Drawn
The PIPA and SOPA bills certainly have plenty of enemies, but they also have their fair share of supporters. One of the most surprising supporters of SOPA, in particular, is domain name registrar and web hosting giant GoDaddy. The House Judiciary Committee released a document listing the 142 companies that are in favor of the SOPA bill and, strangely, GoDaddy was the only internet company to be listed. Now the once beloved internet brand is dealing with the backlash from users who organized a boycott calling for customers to take their business elsewhere.
On the opposing side, the argument is that these supporters do not seem to understand the regulations they are seeking and the resulting implications. Many, like Eric Schmidt of Google, believe the bills will do nothing to stamp out piracy, mainly because they are targeting the wrong issues. This is a solid argument considering how easy it is for illegal activity to move from one website to another. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what comes of these controversial bills and their impact on the internet infrastructure.