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November 11, 2012

Explaining the Stop Online Piracy Act

The election is over, and it is time to step back and view the events from a longer and more objective perspective.

During the runup to it, Essex County Republican Committee Chair Ron Jackson wrote a Letter to the Editor (Oct. 16) that listed a litany of reasons to vote against the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Bill Owens. Included in the list was the claim that Owens “co-sponsored the SOPA bill to allow the government to take away your Internet freedoms without any due process of law.” Jackson ends his letter with the admonition: “He (Owens) can’t be trusted.”

I was puzzled on two accounts: First, I remember reading about SOPA but couldn’t remember exactly what it was about let alone what the acronym stood for; second, I knew Owens personally, as he helped my wife and I draw up some legal documents in the past,  and I recall that he was a compassionate and competent lawyer.

So I did what everyone else does when confronted with a problem: I Googled it (I know, I know, the Google Corp. doesn’t like it when a citizen uses their name as a common noun or verb because it degrades the patent on their good name, but that is their problem and not mine — I should be so successful that my name becomes a verb).

Anyway, I found out that SOPA unpacks to Stop Online Piracy Act and that like any complicated piece of legislation it contains many complex interacting parts due to the compromises that must be made during any effective political process.

It was introduced in the House of Representatives on Oct 26, 2011, by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) with bipartisan support,  and its intent is to strengthen the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by making it easier to prosecute online lawbreakers who violate intellectual property copyrights (e.g. music, video) as well as counterfeit products.

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