[UPDATE 1/16/2012 16:35]: SOPA has been pushed back! However, I urge everybody to not take this concession as a victory, and continue arguing against legislation similar to this one across the globe (for example the “Sinde law” in Spain) and even PIPA in the U.S. 

We have grown up with the internet, the freedoms associated with it, and a culture where access to almost the complete accumulation of human knowledge is accessible to all for the benefit of all.  It is difficult for me to watch legislation being enacted that if passed could harm innovation and stifle creativity.

The Internet has changed our world by fostering freedom of speech and thus, by giving a voice to those whose voices has been traditionally suppressed; from Cairo to Tripoli, people’s lives have been transformed because of it. But the internet has also brought unintended consequences; intellectual property theft has flourished — now believed to take up 23.76% of all internet traffic. As such new laws are constantly introduced to discuss the protection of intellectual property online, the newest of which is the Stop Online Piracy Act H.R. 3261 (SOPA).

SOPA aims to combat online piracy by allowing individual corporations, to shut down access to foreign websites in US jurisdictional areas “dedicated to the theft of US property”. Although in principle the idea behind SOAP is noble, it will burden internet corporations with onerous levels of liability for all user-generated content while blurring the distinction between the site’s owners and its users, similar to criminalizing the private operators of a toll highway when drivers travelling in the highway commit a crime.  Under SOPA, sites could be punished for not policing their site for copyrighted content, even if owners do not post anything illegal themselves. This bill may force internet corporations to spend more money on compliance and litigation than on innovation. Smaller sites and startups that cannot afford such compliance burden or long legal fights may be fatally impacted.  Facebook, twitter, reddit, Wikipedia, and google aren’t going away because of this bill; however, the next facebook, twitter, reddit, or Wikipeida will. The internet has fueled the innovation economy injecting over 2 billion dollars into the US economy according to President Barack Obama, if SOPA were passed, future engineer entrepreneurs may not have a chance. I believe that there must be laws to regulate copyright, but they should not attempt to change the fundamental structure of the internet, such as the OPEN Act.