SOPA and PIPA are U.S. bills intended to strengthen protections against copyright infringement, intellectual property theft, and the production of counterfeit goods. The Stop Online Piracy Act suggests that the U.S. companies must be stopped from providing services to sites that contain copyrighted work, such as YouTube. It also would make it harder for internet users to find and access those sites. The bill, if passed, would require every payment or advertising network operator to set up a process to allow outsiders to notify the company that a website is trying to “thieve” U.S. property. Currently, many websites, such as The Pirate Bay, allow viewers to type in any movie/TV show and find links to download it for free. SOPA tries to cut off any association with foreign websites by requiring U.S. search engines, advertising networks, etc. to withhold their services. People for and against this bill both agree that protecting content is important, but opponents declare that SOPA will lead to unintended consequences and censorship.
PIPA, the Protect IP Act, if passed, would allow the U.S. Department of Justice to seek a court order against infringing websites. The court issues an order for which all providers and advertisers must stop financial transactions with the rogue website and remove links related to it. Search engines would have to remove and disable access to the Internet site, and any links would be useless. Any trademark/copyright owners would have the right to sue the website for infringing activities.
The bill is made up of a two-step process for intellectual property-rights holders to seek help. The rights holder must first notify some type of authoritive service who will then forward that notification and suspend the identified website, unless the website can provide a reason explaining how it is not in violation. The rights holder can then sue against the site operator, if they choose to.
The second section talks about penalties given for streaming videos and for selling counterfeit drugs, military materials, or consumer goods. The bill would increase penalties and expand copyright offenses to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content and any other intellectual-property offenses. The maximum penalty for copyright infringement is up to 5 years in prison.
Many people have protested against these two bills in various ways. Various websites have blacked out at midnight in protest. Supporters have launched campaigns to pledge for “Internet freedom.” Mozilla Firefox blackened out their homepage to support the Anti-SOPA strike, while many cities had people holding signs of protest. The bills were postponed, and President Obama and the White House wrote a letter criticizing the two acts.