Freedom is key to internet success.

SOPA is an anti piracy bill that was debated in the US. The acronym stands for ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’.

SOPA and its close cousin PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) aim to limit online piracy and theft of intellectual property (IP) of corporate videos by removing people’s ability to find it – through search engines for example.

Proponents of the act see it as essential to protecting IP online, but opponents think it is going too far and will effectively create a censored web.

The main supporters of the bill have been Hollywood movie producers and other big content producers who really got the bill in motion.

Opponents to the bill include the founders of Twitter, Wikipedia, Yahoo and Reddit.

If the bill is passed, the government and content providers would have the power to penalize sites that produce or even link to content they deem to be in breach of copyright.

It would really amount to a case of guilty before being proved innocent, because before any proof is considered or case heard, money would be cut off from the suspect site which would mean it would stop operating. Pay-Pal and credit card processing would not be allowed to operate and the site featuring corporate videos would be financially ruined.

Implications For Online Video

SOPA and PIPA would impose legal restrictions on people’s ability to search freely for content that is available. This would mean a clamping down on the freedom of the net to share content.

Whether you are an online video company or have a YouTube channel, SOPA would probably affect you. Even if you just link to a site which they think infringes copyright, you could be shut down. It could take up to a year to get back online again, by which time you would have faced financial ruin.

The big companies would find it easier to cope with because they have the resources to fight court orders, but smaller companies producing corporate video would suffer.

In January 2012 the English Wikipedia, Reddit, and about 7,00 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout to raise awareness. Other protest against SOPA and PIP included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over 7,000,000 signatures.

Because of these protests, votes on the bill were postponed because legislators withdrew their support.

Although this is being debated in the US, it has implications for Australia and the rest of the web. The MegaUpload site inNew Zealandhad four of its leaders arrested and the site closed by the US government as part of an alleged $175 million copyright infringement.

The terms and language of the bill are broad and unclear and anyone could be caught unawares. There are other ways to fight piracy of corporate videos, and this does seem an extremely heavy-handed approach.

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