America’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Explained

In this week’s NME magazine (January 21), there’s a special report on the Stop Online Piracy Act – aka SOPA – the bill currently undergoing debate in Washington DC that could threaten the way you interact with music online. The feature lays the issue bare and explains what it will mean for you, from the threat to MP3 blogs and YouTube creativity, to how it could stifle our most inventive new artists.

Wiki Protest

As opposition to the bill grows, the story changes by the day. Here we’ve rounded up the latest updates on the legislation that everyone’s talking about. Leave your own thoughts on the issue below.

The Wikipedia Blackout
Bad luck if you’re trying to scrape together research on Wikipedia today (January 18) – the free encyclopedia is having a blackout to protest against SOPA and the Protect IP Act, often called PIPA.


Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s co-founder, wrote (rather gnomically) on Monday: “Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!” They’re closing for the day in protest against the way SOPA could potentially curb freedom of speech online. Wales told the New York Times:

The government could tell us that we could write an entry about the history of the Pirate Bay but not allow us to link to it. That’s a First Amendment issue.

Whilst Google won’t be shutting down for the day, it is broadcasting a message on its main search page about SOPA, which will reach millions of users. It reads: “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!”.

Obama Refuses To Support The Bill

Whilst the bill was widely supported in Congress – by both Republican and Democratic representatives – the White House issued their first statement against SOPA on Monday (January 16)

Let us be clear – online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle-class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs. Whilst we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.

This essentially means that congressional leaders will have to shelve the controversial legislation in its current state, taking it back to the drawing board to retool it into more palatable form.

Rupert Murdoch Fights Back

Ole Wrinkleface

It’ll come as little to no surprise to hear that entertainment magnate Rupert Murdoch has pumped huge amounts into advancing SOPA and PIPA, eager to protect his assets. Murdoch got himself a Twitter account, which he’s been using to complain about the price of popcorn at cinemas and learning that the internet has a smutty mind (“Why is every tweet thought to be conspiratorial or sexual. I was talking blackjack. Give me a break.”)


However, following the White House’s comments about SOPA on January 16, Rupert took to Twitter to voice his discontent that the bill could be quashed.

So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery. Piracy leader is Google who streams movies free, sells advts around them. No wonder pouring millions into lobbying. Just been to google search for mission impossible. Wow, several sites offering free links. I rest my case.

EMI Try To Sue Ireland

Whilst not directly connected to SOPA, EMI have filed a lawsuit against the Irish government over what they see as its failure to crack down on piracy. Irish law would require a new legislative mechanism to stop internet service providers from allowing access to pirate sites (one of the main parts of SOPA) in order to comply with European Law, which they currently don’t have. Last month, the Irish government pledged to introduce such a mechanism, but EMI think they’re taking their sweet little time about it, so have decided to sue them. The whole country. Well done, EMI.

Where do you stand on the SOPA issue?

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