(Disclaimer: My post does not reflect the opinions of other Zelda Eternity staff members, and this post will focus mainly on SOPA.)
Well, by now, I would hope you have all heard of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PROTECT IP/PIPA (standing for a mouthful I won't type out here immediately), bills that are (almost by design) capable of changing the internet. These two bills were written as a solution for, as some companies have reported, massive loss of revenue due to internet piracy (some claims dubious, some not, that can be touched on later). They are, however, damaging to the internet now, have the capability to restrict free speech, and generally give too much power to copyright holders to remove content that may not actually be infringing copyright. Both bills, in their current state, are far too vague, and irresponsibly written.
So, why are these bills bad? How do they threaten the existence of the internet currently? Well, as you may or may not know, most infringing content is taken down on a case-to-case basis. Youtube has many examples of this, where a copyright infringement claim can be made, and Youtube must take down that content. In theory, this sounds reasonable. In practice, it has been used to take down videos that could only be vaguely considered copyright infringement. That's the current way of doing things. Under SOPA, Youtube itself is responsible. Youtube is responsible for having that content. Anyone who links to it is also responsible, including search engines. It's not just Youtube, it's the entire internet, but it gives you a good idea.
That's not all. DNS* blacklisting by ISPs** is a very real possibility. ISPs will be able to block sites for having content they consider to be infringing copyright. However, they are not required to prove it. It becomes the responsiblity of the site owner(s) to prove their sites innocence, a procedure that may be too expensive or time consuming for some. It is essentially "guilty until proven innocent". To top it off, copyright holders can make claims (without court order) to remove advertisement from a site, stopping revenue, without prior notice.
For the icing, some programs and services that could be considered as SOPA-bypassing would become illegal. Proxies, for example. Anything involving privatization between users. I'd like to take this moment to point out that Skype technically does this, as it allows for private, peer-to-peer transfer of files. Whether or not those files are illegal or not is not the concern.
This isn't the extent of the bill, but all I can source right now.
As you may have noticed, this is being taken seriously enough for a protest in the form of site blackouts to be held at the time of writing (about). It's generally considered bad news for the internet. The broad nature of these bills simply gives too much power, some even consider it to be an attempt to censor the internet. Even if that's not the intent, the possibility is there. I suggest people read this article, and articles that link to it (most of the source right now as this is not a well-timed post).
Also, the SOPA bill can be found here.
That's my entry into this discussion, and I'm certainly no expert. No matter how it looks (I'm not the most unbiased person here), the point of this thread is to get information out there, and spark at least some discussion. Guess this means: What are your thoughts? Counter-arguments? General complaints about the nature of this post? Also, I encourage others to look into this themselves. Individual research is always good, and there is plenty of information out there, so much over the course of so much time, that finding all the things I've read over the last couple months is nearly impossible. Somebody has something new to say every day, after all.
(Side note: Although this blog doesn't have a professional appearance, it has solid evidence of some notable supporters of SOPA/PIPA actually encouraging software piracy.)
*DNS stands for "Domain Name System", which put simply, allows you to type "www.whateversiteyouwant.com/org/net/jp", instead of "123.456.789.111" or some other IP system thing I'm not entirely qualified to speak on.
**ISP stands for "Internet service provider", any company that provides you with your ability to connect to the internet, such as Comcast or Verizon.