SOPA/PIPA And What It Means To You: Ben Parr Explains It All

Sorting through all the SOPA/PIPA related news today is bound to get overwhelming. Sites like Wikipedia, Reddit, those in the Cheezburger network, Boing Boing, Mozilla and more are dark to protest the proposed anti-piracy laws. We’ve roped in a few industry experts and veterans to help sort out what exactly is going on here, and were lucky enough to get Mashable’s former and formidable editor-at-large Ben Parr to weigh in.

Consumerist: Why should sites with entertainment content or information that don’t directly pirate anything care about SOPA/PIPA?

Ben Parr: Under the current wording of SOPA and PIPA, websites could potentially be blacklisted from search engines, advertising networks and Internet Service Providers via court order. The Department of Justice or a copyright holder could request this and potentially be granted this request. This is very bad, because sites such as Reddit, YouTube and other entertainment websites could accidentally host pirated content (via a rogue user) and then be blacklisted by the government.

In other words, your favorite websites might get penalized, blacklisted or even shut down due to a copyright infringement lawsuit. These are all hypothetical scenarios, but ones that SOPA and PIPA would open the door to.

Consumerist: Why should the typical consumer even care if SOPA goes through or not? Why should they take the time to contact their reps and tell them they’re against it?

BP: The Internet could turn into a dramatically different place if SOPA and PIPA pass. Not only will it be harder to find the content you’re looking for, but your favorite websites could disappear for days, months or longer because of a dragged-out copyright infringement lawsuit.

Foreign websites have it even worse; the government has even more leeway to block them under SOPA and PIPA.

Consumerist: How did some sites come to the decision to black out to protest SOPA on Jan. 18?

BP: A lot of the websites protesting SOPA and PIPA tomorrow (Google, Wikipedia, Boing Boing, Reddit, etc.) would be directly affected by the new laws. Their businesses would be restricted and copyright infringement lawsuits could slow down the progress of internet innovation.

It’s also a community effort. The high-tech community is almost uniformly against these laws, and the community bands together on occasions where it sees a really big threat to Internet freedom and innovation.

Consumerist: Why do such bills have any support, when they seem so widely unpopular? Is there a compromise that could take place instead?

BP: Most people don’t even know about the fight over SOPA and PIPA. In addition, these laws have the support of influential media giants such as Comcast, the RIAA and the MPAA.

I think there is a reasonable compromise that can be struck, but SOPA and PIPA’s supporters worry that this is their only chance to get Congress to pass strong anti-piracy laws.

Piracy is a problem that has to be solved, but we cannot harm the internet and restrict the things that have made it the largest platform for freedom and expression in the history of mankind. Hopefully SOPA and PIPA are scrapped and the tech and entertainment industries can come together and jointly draft a law that is fair to everyone.

Check out BenParr.com for more insight into technology and entrepreneurship.

Consumerist urges you to take a moment and contact your members of Congress. You can do so easily at the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.