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What are SOPA and PIPA?

If you’ve never heard of SOPA before, you probably did today after trying to access one of your daily go-to websites, just as Wikipedia or even Google’s homepage. These websites, as well as many others have come together and blacked out their websites for 24 hours in protest to SOPA and PIPA. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) are getting negative attention across the internet, today.

So what are SOPA and PIPA? 

Right now, federal law enforcement has the ability to shut down any US-based website that offers pirated content. What they can’t do, is shut down any foreign sites, like well-known torrent site, Pirate Bay. If these new bills pass, U.S. Internet providers will be able to block access for foreign pirated sites as well as any funds, advertising or partnered sites. The overall purpose of the two bills is to make it harder for websites (including foreign websites) to sell or distribute pirated movies, music and other media content.

What does that mean for the internet?

For a simple explanation: The passing of these bills will give copyright holders (WB, Paramount, Sony, etc) new ways to fight and punish websites for hosting and distributing pirated content.

Because so many website rely on user-uploaded content (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia), they unknowingly host and link to pirated content, which is part of the reason Wikipedia, Reddit and WordPress and protesting today.

Websites will be able to be censored and Google’s search results will dramatically alter if SOPA and PIPA go into effect. The bills will not allow linking to any sites “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property,” and will block Visa, Mastercard and Paypal from transmitting funds to any websites hosting, linking or distributing pirated content.

The Senate will be voting on January 24, 2012. There are a number of ways to get involved, here are links to just two petitions:

Google’s End Piracy, Not Liberty and Fight for the Future’s Stop American Censorship