What is SOPA/PIPA ?
SOPA stands for "Stop online Piracy act" and PIPA represents " The PROTECT IP Act ", with PROTECT meaning Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. SOPA is a bill introduced in US to expand the ability of their laws to fight online trafficking in copyrighted content on web. Under this act if a person/organisation finds that a website on internet is using its content without a legal permission from them, they can approach a court and get orders to stop the advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with this websites. They can get the site blocked and search engines will thereby stop linking to that site. Not that there were no such laws earlier but SOPA strengthens them by a fair magnitude. PIPA is a similar bill. Like SOPA, PIPA too gives the the copyright holders a strong tool to stand against a dishonest website.
Piracy indeed is a big concern but whether or not this is the right way to curb it, is debatable. Some have lauded it, others have deemed it too harsh on the websites involving user generated data. Some have welcomed it with both the hands open. But it is not short on the criticism too. You can find a list of Congresspersons from US on each side and their views on these bills here. Eric Schmidt , the Google chairman, put it as an "overly simple solutions to a complex problem".
The case of websites with user-generated data:
Though piracy, no doubt, deserves a strong fightback and copyright holders have been crying for long asking for a strict rule to help them curb this dreadful virus, people have found the above laws a little ambiguous to say the least. The case of websites such as Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo, twitter etc is interesting. Users leave a lot of content on these websites and users, I am not sure ought to be restricted . Let us take the most familiar example of Youtube. People post a lot of videos on Youtube. It may be the video of an artist who performed at their college and they would love to share that with their friends through youtube or probably Facebook. "Jal- the band" , performed at my college recently (by the way, thanks to those who organised it :D) and would you not love to share such a thing on your Facebook profile ? But wait a minute, should I get a legal permission from the officials at "JAL" before I post a video of it on my Facebook wall ? Now suppose, I always go that way. Will I post as many videos as I normally do ? Will I not sometimes think - "what drama man !! Who will do all that ? I am feeling quite lazy about it" (Well, I am a lazy person by the way !!). Will that not be a setback for Facebook ??
Now suppose one posts such a thing on his Facebook wall or may be writes something on Wikipedia which should really require a copyright. What do you think the result should be ? Should he be banned from using the respective site ? Or do you think thats a little too harsh ? If you do, this is going to be a surprise for you. Now look at the underlined text above. Yes, the organisation with the copyright can get facebook (Youtube or wikipedia) blocked. Its not mendatory that this will happen but there is a chance (even though slim) that this can happen.
What happened between Wikipedia and GO Daddy:
Wikipedia blackout on January 18,2012 was a firm stand by wikipedia against SOPA. Now, look at the image below. This is a snapshot showing a tweet by Jimmy wales (the wikipedia co-founder) himself:
As the above text suggests Go daddy seems to have supported SOPA and Wikimedia could not digest this. Wikimedia legal counsel Michelle Paulson put the transfer of its domain registry like this:-
After months of deliberation and a complicated transfer, the Wikimedia Foundation domain portfolio has been successfully transferred from GoDaddy to MarkMonitor [a U.S.-based domain registry and trademark ]. The portfolio transfer was formally completed on Friday, March 9th, 2012. The transfers were done seamlessly and our sites did not experience any interruption of service or other issues during the procedure.
Here is the official blog post covering the transfer. Wikipedia is not alone on this. If VentureBeat is to be believed, Go daddy has lost more than 37,000 domains as a result of its support for SOPA . Though, Go daddy realised this and softened its stand on SOPA, it was just a little late. I am not completely against SOPA. I completely agree that piracy need to be fought and fought very strongly but i think the bill just passed needs to be edited a little.