The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is a bill that proposes an expansion of what actions U.S. Law Enforcement, as well as those holding copyrights, can carry out to fight against the online trafficking of intellectual property that is copyrighted. It also, if passed, has the distinct possibility of infringing upon free speech and violating the first amendment, as well as censoring the internet, which may just weaken the internet as we know it.
What exactly is SOPA? The Stop Online Privacy Act, which is also known as H.R. 3261, was first introduced to the House of Representatives back in October of 2011. If passed, it would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright holders to to obtain court orders against websites that partake in some form of copyright infringement, whether it be directly or indirectly. It even goes so far as to be able to allow certain parties of payment facilitating sites, such as Paypal, and advertising networks from doing any dealings with the accused websites, in addition to completely banning them from search engines and forcing internet providers to block the sites entirely (sounds like China or Iran right?). Unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content would also be considered a crime, punishable by up to 5 years in prison for 10 copyright violations within a six month time period.
How will SOPA affect music communities online? SOPA will affect content creators, such as: DJs, Bedroom Producers, Mashup Artists, and Remixers, because it will limit or completely remove the ability to use songs in their compositions. This music creators utilize parts of songs to make entirely new ones. For instance, a Mashup artist will take the instrumentals of one song and the vocal track of another, and combine them to create a piece of music that is completely different from the original tracks. This bill will prevent them from doing so, thereby harming the creative process and livelihood of many content creators.
It is not only those in the United States that will be affected by H.R. 3261, however. As many music communities online are either run out of the States or are visited by those in the States, this bill will affect the each and every content creator throughout the world. In addition, it will also affect the content consumer, in that they will not have access to the wide range of music that are now available to them.
It’s quite possible that most who oppose SOPA don’t have a problem with it protected copyrighted works, in general, but have an issue with how it is worded and the penalties involved with its vague definition of what online piracy really is. As the bill is now, it has the ability to damage online music communities and those who frequent them, if it is passed.
On January 18th, many anti-SOPA/PIPA online communities (including MashupCiti) from around the world are going to blackout their sites in protest and in hopes to raise awareness of this horrendous American law.