Two pieces of legislation are currently making its way in the US House of Representatives and the Senate. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and the Personal Information Protection Act, or PIPA, will potentially change the way users exchange and facilitate information in the Internet.
The SOPA and PIPA will work together to oblige internet service providers to block websites that posts or links to copyrighted content. Search engines like Google and Yahoo! likewise cannot display results from websites that violate the proposed law.
The effect, obviously, will be felt not only in US but in pretty much the whole international arena. Even Canadian websites will be affected by the proposed law, as long as it’s a website that ends in .com, .net., or .org. These websites, despite being used and managed by people elsewhere, can be blocked by US courts.
The Department of Justice, in fact, has already conducted a “major operation” which included, among others, the shutdown of MegaUpload. MegaUpload is accused of causing an estimate of $500 million in damages for violating intellectual property rights.
The government has also issued as many as 20 search warrants in around 18 foreign countries. Around $10 million dollar worth of assets have also been seized.
In protest of this legislation, Wikipedia has already shut down its website for 24 hours last Wednesday. This gave a lot of Internet users a preview of how life would be without filesharing and blocking Internet sites because of copyrighted content—which is difficult to determine in the first place.