Congress is working on a bill called the Stop Online Piracy Act and it's meant to prevent copyright infringement and illegally spreading content through Web sites. The proposed bill is working its way through the House of Representatives and the Senate is working on a similar bill called the Protect IP Act. Like many proposed laws, it's a work in progress, but one of its main tactics is to remove one of the most basic legal protections Web sites now benefit from. It's widely known that Web sites like YouTube are not liable for content people post on their site. If someone uploads a tirade of lies and slander directed at the president, for example, YouTube can be asked to remove it, but they would never be legally held to account in any kind of libel lawsuit.
The Supreme Court ruled on this, and it's one of the only reasons Web sites are free to post so much varied and controversial content, including copywritten and pirated content. If SOPA passes, and there is plenty of debate left before it gets out of the house, this would change. Web sites themselves would be liable for any pirated content being displayed there no matter who put it up. This fundamental shift would alter the Internet landscape far and wide. Web sites would be taken down, and other sites would be so scared of being caught up in it, they would begin self-censoring their own content. This is precisely the argument being made by representatives like Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) who are fighting against the bill.
Officially known as House Resolution 3261, SOPA was introduced Oct. 26 by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a group of 12 other co-sponsors. It is now being heard in the House Judiciary Committee, and if it passes there, it will go to the House floor for a vote. Then it has to go through the Senate, and if it passes, both houses have to agree on the final bill before it passes on to the President. Tell us in the comments if you've contacted your congressperson about SOPA or if you think it will pass or fail no matter what.