Stop Online Piracy Act may be stopped

Jennifer Collins Jan 17, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Tomorrow could be a long and trying day online. Try going to Wikipedia in the morning — see what happens. Or the social news website Reddit, or posting a picture to TwitPic. It’s not going to go so well.

They — and as many as 5,000 other sites — say they might just go black tomorrow. Shut things down entirely in protest over two bills now making their way through Congress. They’d give the government broad new powers to fight online piracy, which has raised claims in the tech world that Congress doesn’t really get the Internet at all.

Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: Some congressmen practically brag about being out of touch with the Internet.

Melvin Watt: Chairman, I’m a pretty old-fashioned guy who still hasn’t figured out how or even whether I want to use all the fancy technological advances that are out there.

That was North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt. He’s one of the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act known as SOPA. The bill, and a similar one in the Senate, includes broad new tools to thwart online piracy. One would force search engines like Google to stop linking to sites that post pirated content. Another would stop advertisers from doing business with those sites.

Jack Lerner: The ramifications are very complex.

Jack Lerner is a law professor at the University of Southern California.

Lerner: That complexity is not something that can be easily dealt with from a legislative standpoint.

The bills have created a war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Big tech companies say the legislation would make it impossible for them to do business. Hollywood says, without the legislation, it’s business is being destroyed.

Cynthia Sanders is with the law firm Ober Kaler in Baltimore.

Cynthia Sanders: Not everybody in the entertainment and media world agree.

The same is true in Washington. The Obama administration has opposed portions of the bill and the House has also pulled back. But with piracy costing up to $775 billion a year, virtually everyone agrees the bills in some form will survive.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

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