The (Stop Online Piracy Act) SOPA bill is one of the most controversial legislations of 2011. If passed, it will allow the U.S. government and copyright holders to take devastating actions against Web sites accused of enabling or facilitating digital piracy and/or transactions in counterfeit goods.

Punitive actions include blocking payment from advertisers, blocking payment from Web sites like PayPal and barring search engines, social network sites and ISPs from showing the accused Web site.

The major difference between the SOPA bill and the existing framework provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is that the SOPA bill gives authorities tools to target entire Web sites whereas DMCA targets the content itself.

That is, SOPA get can entire Web sites blocked whereas DMCA focused on blocking individual content (like individual YouTube postings).

Proponents of SOPA focus on the bill’s ability to tackle foreign rogue Web sites dedicated to online piracy and selling counterfeits goods. For example, it would give authorities the ability to block a foreign Web sites solely set up to sell counterfeit medicines.

“The sale of counterfeit products and piracy of copyrighted content online not only undermines our nation’s economy, it robs state and local governments of much-needed tax revenue and jobs. Even worse, some counterfeit goods can pose serious health and safety hazards to consumers,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna in a statement.

Opponents of the SOPA, however, focus on the danger that it could be used against “Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.”

They argue that SOPA could endanger popular and useful Web sites like Wikipedia, YouTube and Reddit. By doing so, authorities would be effectively practicing censorship and killing freedom on the Internet.

In an open letter to Congress from LinkedIn, eBay, Twitter, AOL, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Zynga and Mozilla, the companies stated that SOPA could “jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owner and Internet companies alike.”

On the lips of both sides of the SOPA bill debate is jobs (a hot-button issue in Washington); proponents of SOPA argue it will saves U.S. jobs in the content-creating industry while opponents argue that it will kill jobs at companies that provide online user platforms (like YouTube).

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