The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a law (bill) of the United States proposed in 2011 to fight online trafficking in copyrightedintellectual property and counterfeit goods. Proposals include barring advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with allegedly infringing websites, barring search engines from linking to the sites, and requiring Internet service providers(ISP) to block access to the sites. The bill would criminalize the streaming of such content, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
User-content websites such as YouTube would be greatly affected, and concern has been expressed that they may be shut down if the bill becomes law. Opponents state the legislation would enable law enforcement to remove an entire internet domain due to something posted on a single blog, arguing that an entire online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority. In a1998 law, copyright owners are required to request the site to remove the infringing material within a certain amount of time. SOPA would bypass this “safe harbor” provision by placing the responsibility for detecting and policing infringement onto the site itself.
Lobbyists for companies that rely heavily on revenue from intellectual property copyright state it protects the market and corresponding industry, jobs, and revenue. The US president and legislators suggest it may kill innovation. Representatives of theAmerican Library Association state the changes could encourage criminal prosecution of libraries. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name begins a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.
On January 18, English Wikipedia, Reddit, and several other internet companies coordinated a service blackout to protest SOPA and its sister bill, the Protect IP Act. Other companies, including Google, posted links and images in an effort to raise awareness. An estimated 7,000 smaller websites either blacked out their sites or posted some other kind of protest. A number of other protest actions were organized, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and a rally held in New York.
Source : Wikipedia