What are SOPA and PIPA, anyway? - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

What are SOPA and PIPA, anyway?

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - SOPA and PIPA. They are two things that go hand in hand and which have been popping up on the news and online lately. So what do they mean?

Our cyber expert Theresa Payton shares her notes on why we all should be paying attention to these two bills:

WHAT IS SOPA AND WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

Websites went dark on the internet last week. So many, that you might have been wondering if there was a widespread outage.  

Web sites around the globe took themselves offline for 24 hours to protest two U.S. bills being proposed on Capitol Hill.  These bills are designed to stop piracy which sounds like a great idea.  So, what are these websites upset about and why should you be concerned? 

SOPA and PIPA might sound like cute characters from a cartoon but they are actually the acronyms for the laws being proposed in DC.  SOPA - STOP ONLINE PIRACY ACT and PIPA Protect IP Act.  These bills are so controversial that Wikipedia, WordPress, Google and many others either took themselves offline or changed their sites to show their protests of the bill.  They say these bills are too far reaching and would actually take the legitimate sites that you know and love offline. 

WHAT ARE THESE BILLS MEANT TO DO?

1.  Media companies, music companies, anyone who develops products want a better way to fight piracy.  Today, they sue individual users or work with the U.S. government officials to try to shut down domains.  This gets almost impossible to do with the internet pirates are overseas.

2.  SOPA which is the House Bill and PIPA which is the Senate bill are aimed mainly at foreign web sites that have printed copyrighted or counterfeited materials or goods illegally.

An example of a site considered an online treasure for pirated information is "The Pirate Bay" .

SOME HAVE VOICED CONCERNS:

1.  Shut down without a voice:  there is no appeal process before the site is shut down.  So, if sites are shut down but it was "mistaken identity" and actually a legitimate site, it could hurt the business owners

2.  Technology experts are concerned that the language in the bill could leave companies open to internet censorship as various sites, topics or services become a target

3.  Links you share on social networks and even emails might be monitored and potentially removed if it is believed to be promoting piracy or copyright infringement

4.  Sites that let the communities drive content are concerned that if the community posts something that is considered a violation that the entire site will be pulled down

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE INSTEAD?

Many internet openness advocates say, do nothing. Use the laws we already have and enforce them better.  An alternative bill called Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) has also been propose that would send any accusations of piracy to the US International Trad Commission first before taking a site offline or other actions.

WEB RESOURCES:

The Library of Congress has posted the text for the Bills at the following links:

SOPA:  http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:

PIPA:  http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.968:

The alternative bill proposed is called OPEN>  If you want to see a draft of the bill and comment on it, go to:

http://keepthewebopen.com/

If you want to know if your elected official is sponsoring these bills, the Co-Sponsors are listed at:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR03261:@@@P

PC World is tracking the progress of the bills at:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/248298/sopa_and_pipa_just_the_facts.html

For a graphical illustration, check out Mashable's infographic at:  http://mashable.com/2011/11/16/sopa-infographic/

WORD OF THE WEEK:

PINTEREST:  A mash up on pinboard and interests.  It's a really cool site where you set up a profile of interests and you can pin up things that you love as well.   From wedding plans to travel tips to fitness and architecture.  It's all there.  Just be careful how much personal information you share about yourself while you pin up your favorites!

You check out the word of the week, PINTEREST at http://pinterest.com/

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