It’s amazing the number of people out there who use the the worldwide web on a daily basis, but have never heard of SOPA or the PROTECT IP Act, two bills currently in the U.S. Congress that once enacted will radically change the Internet as we know it. These two acts in their present form will transform the web for better or worse, depending on which side of the argument you adhere to. Here are two of the biggest stakeholders on opposite sides of the issue.
Big Tech. Large IT companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn believe the legislation currently in Congress puts too much onus on them to stop activity they have no control over, and will damage free speech and innovation as well as stifle economic growth. Other opponents have stated that the bills amount to censorship online with virtually the same restrictions that are currently used in China. Unlike the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) which has been around since 1998 and grants immunity to websites when content is uploaded to their sites by users, the SOPA bill does not. It forces site owners to take responsibility for any and all content that is on their site.
Big Entertainment. Virtually all of the U.S. film and music industry as well as the secondary and tertiary industries they support are behind the SOPA and PROTECT IP bills as they are currently drafted. Proponents decry not only the loss of profits, but point to huge job losses as well. The International Chamber of Commerce reports that piracy and counterfeiting costs businesses $775 billion annually. That number is protracted to rise to $1.7 trillion by 2015, and put 2.5 million jobs at risk each year.
Whether either of these bills will pass, or radically curtail diminishing profits and jobs in the culture and entertainment industries remains to be seen, but the stakes are high on both sides. And like any clash of titans, there will likely be some collateral damage.