PIPA/SOPA and Why You Should Care

January 17th, 2012

Congress is considering the most talked-about copyright legislation in a decade, known as Protect IP (PIPA) in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) in the House. Today, Mozilla announced that we’ll join with other sites in a virtual strike to protest PIPA/SOPA.

SOPA makes all of us potential criminals if we don’t become the enforcement arm of a new government regulatory and policing structure. SOPA does not target websites serving up unauthorized content. SOPA does not target people accessing those websites. SOPA targets all the rest of us. These costs are significant, wide-ranging and long lasting. To understand more clearly what SOPA does and the range of consequences, it’s helpful to use an analogy from the physical world where we all have many years of experience.

Assume there’s a corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie industry believes that some or even all of the videos in that store are unauthorized copies, so that they’re not being paid when people watch their movies. What should be done?

SOPA/PIPA don’t aim at the people trying to get to the store. SOPA/ PIPA don’t penalize or regulate the store itself. SOPA and PIPA penalize us if we don’t block the people trying to get to the store.

The solution under the proposed bills is to make it as difficult as possible to find or interact with the store. Maps showing the location of the store must be changed to hide it(1). The road to the store must be blocked off so that it’s difficult to physically get to there(2). Directory services must unlist the store’s phone number and address(3). Credit card companies(4) would have to cease providing services to the store. Local newspapers would no longer be allowed to place ads for the video store(5). And to make sure it all happens, any person or organization who doesn’t do this is subject to penalties(6). Even publishing a newsletter that tells people where the store is would be prohibited by this legislation(7).

This is what SOPA and PIPA would impose in the online world. It’s very different than targeting the owner of the video store directly. The obligations to make websites hard to find apply to all citizens and businesses. Each one of us is subject to punishment and fines if we don’t follow these prohibitions. And, because SOPA/PIPA create a new regulatory structure, we become subject to punishment without the due process protections citizens normally enjoy.

Supporters say they are only targeting foreign websites outside US jurisdiction. However the burden of compliance that falls on all of us is not any less because the website servers are elsewhere. And in any case, many US companies with be affected through their locally-identified sites (for example,

Despite their over-reaching nature, PIPA and SOPA may not even be effective at stopping online piracy. People can still enter the actual Internet Protocol address of a blocked domain name. Sites can register new domain names. Continuously sanitizing the Internet of any mention or link to bad sites is a like the infamous game of “whack-a-mole.”

SOPA and PIPA are dangerous.  So, what to do?


  • Reject SOPA / PIPA soundly.
  • Congress must not adopt the SOPA position of protecting content AT ALL COSTS. Congress must represent all of us.
  • Focus specifically on the holes in today’s enforcement tools. Why are thePirateBay.ORG or MegaUpload.COM still operating? Why aren’t they part of the definition of “foreign site” in SOPA/PIPA?
  • Be very, very cautious about creating new liability because we’re unwilling to punish the people accessing unauthorized content

Over time, developments in two areas are likely to make this issue recede dramatically. One will be the development of new business models that embrace technology, and consumer expectations of universal access. The second will be new technology that makes it easier for content owners to limit access. Content owners can decide if they want unlimited audiences and alternative revenue sources, of if they want potentially limited audiences and a pay-for-view revenue model. Today we are fighting over what to do in the meantime. The content industry has convinced many that “something must be done.” Even if one agrees with this (which many do not), one thing is clear.

Protecting content at all costs is a disaster.

(1) This is the phyical world equivalent of blocking DNS, which is required by SOPA. 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 2 A i (pp 14, ln 1)
(2) This is the physical world analogy for ISPs obligation to “prevent access” to suspected infringing sites. 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 2 A i (pp 14, ln 1) says that “A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site.”
(3) Removing the video store from the phone book is analogous to preventing any search engines from showing links to a suspected infringing site, which is required under 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 2 B (pp 15, ln 17).
(4) SOPA requires that payment processors stop sanding payments to the accounts of suspected infringing sites. 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 2 C i (pp 16, ln 3)
(5) Advertisers are not allowed to show ads on suspected infringing sites, to show ads for suspected infringing sites in other places, or to pay for ads that have already been served. 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 2 D (pp 17, ln 5).
(6) SOPA allows the Attorney General (under 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 4 A (pp 18, ln 23) or a private party who thinks they’ve been harmed (112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 103 c 4 (pp 42, ln 3) ) to pursue damages from anyone who doesn’t follow these rules, and doesn’t place a limit on the amount of any damages that could be assessed.
(7) “Circumvention tools” — anything that tells you where a site is, even after it’s been removed from the DNS (the Internet’s “map”) are prohibited by 112 HR 3261 Title I, Sec 102 c 4 A ii (pp 19, ln 8 )


119 comments for “PIPA/SOPA and Why You Should Care”

  1. 1

    Tim said on January 19th, 2012 at 12:28 pm:

    Seriously folks… This ISN’T OVER!


    If he says its to be tabled… Be sure to pay attention to what he is doing behind his back at the same time…

    Pay Attention….

    He and his regime are not done trying to take complete control by a long shot!


  2. 2

    Robert M. O’Grady said on January 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm:

    I believe firmly in my right and ability to protect my intellectual property as I would my physical property. I do agree and support all the points made by Mozilla, Google, Wikipedia and other sites who are actively protesting this legislation. Americans have had enough of Washington regulatory commissions and it has to stop here.

  3. 3

    Pingback from Prosecuting Internet Pirates Awfully & Suppressing Online Privileges Aimlessly (NO to PIPA/SOPA) « Canon + on + on

    […] In her recent blog, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker gave a brilliant analogy of how the proposed bills would cause more harm than good if implemented. Her blog can be accessed by clicking HERE. […]

  4. 4

    Pingback from SOPA e PIPA: scontro tra Web ed entertrainment | Media 2000

    […] degli emendamenti e la volontà di partecipare scurendo la pagina iniziale del software. Dal blog di Mitchell Baker,  presidentessa della Mozilla Foundation si legge: “Il SOPA rende tutti noi potenziali […]

  5. 5

    Rosemary W said on January 20th, 2012 at 6:42 pm:

    I am a non-USA citizen. What happens to me if I want to order something from the US which a lot of companies in my country are now encouraging as it is cheaper for us as we escape taxes. Am I committing a crime? I don’t think so. Our government here is developing ideas to make things easier on the people. Why should you make it difficult for us as non-US citizens?

  6. 6

    Jean W. said on January 21st, 2012 at 4:41 pm:

    I also feel this is another bad idea that is coming from our government.

  7. 7

    Donna Wann said on January 21st, 2012 at 5:18 pm:

    Please don’t let this happen.

  8. 8

    Dsmith said on January 23rd, 2012 at 7:01 am:

    If you seriously do not want this type of government, then Mozilla and the rest need to endorse Ron Paul and we the people need to vote for Ron Paul. Otherwise, this will not stop.

  9. 9

    Pingback from #SOPA #usacensored | FRC Web Design

    […] 8 a.m. eastern, Mozilla blacked out its homepage. The new message includes links to statements by Mozilla’s Chairwoman and CEO, along with a call to […]

  10. 10

    Pamela said on January 30th, 2012 at 4:31 am:

    I am stunned. Living in the UK and enjoying using an American server I wonder how this will affect the rest of the world. OK get rid of the peodophiles and the vilest of the sex trades online but leave the rest of us alone! I am a pensioner who enjoys shopping online, chatting to my friends. I am sick of the international phone calls and spams in my email name proclaiming this and that which is usually undersirable. Perhaps our governments ought to concentrate on these companies and track them where ever they set up camp, de-camp and set up all over again. These are the real rogues not us average every day users. What poppycock!!

  11. 11

    Pingback from Protesting PIPA and SOPA - Just another My blog Sites site - newcomputertechnologynews

    […] Mozilla’s Chairman, Mitchell Baker Mozilla’s CEO, Gary Kovacs Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy Lead, Alex Fowler […]

  12. 12

    Paul Blackburn said on February 10th, 2012 at 10:14 am:

    The people in power use their power or mis-use it, and make outlaws of law biding citizens. They take no reguards for other peoples natural rights. They take one swail swoop of the pen , or vote and one’s rights are gone, and mabe forever. Don’t let this happen!

  13. 13

    Pingback from Head of Mozilla Says ACTA Is ‘A Bad Way To Develop Internet Policy’ | Daily Hacking News

    […] modified its home page, pointing to further information about SOPA. That, in its turn, linked to a post entitled “PIPA/SOPA and Why You Should Care,” written by Mitchell Baker, the Chair of […]

  14. 14

    Flash said on February 16th, 2012 at 11:12 pm:

    The societal cost / benefit structure and ratio of “intellectual property” laws needs more careful consideration than just a bit of blogging or even forums or public roundtable events. It certainly needs more careful consideration than the typical politician gives it. EVERYTHING has “pros and cons” or costs and benefits. Perhaps the extremely slow-moving mechanism of lawsuits and the courts are slow enough for people to actually give large amounts of serious thought to these many actual costs and benefits.

    As an example, musicians have always been performers, and when broadcast radio was invented, musicians were thrilled, enamored, and irritated by it. Many found out just how skilled a small portion of musicians really were, and didn’t like their previously content fans listening to that radio instead of themselves. Some found favor with some broadcasters but were displeased by the overwhelming demands and low pay that came attached to that acceptance, and ultimately realised that “fame” was an illusion and a hoax. Some found favor with large numbers of listeners, but not the brokers (broadcasters) and wanted an easier way to connect to their “fans” support than actually travelling around and performing and being paid for those actual performances. Mass produced recordings of increasing quality and affordability were becoming an alternate means of earning some money for musicians, but rather than difficult, self-promoting broadcasters to deal with, record company execs that were both openly and covertly greedy and cunning thieves were the musicians new masters. As technology progressed it became easier to bypass these record companies by going “indie”, and getting the fans to deal with the broadcasters who were no longer so powerful, and selling recordings to and through fans. The “internet” could be used for promotion and even to sell recordings, except some people would simply enjoy your work without even paying the cover charge at a bar, or buying a CD from you between or after playing a set. Oh well.

    Anybody and everybody would like to get paid many times for doing one thing. A musician performs by playing or singing, and should (and will) be paid by his audience as a whole. An actor performs by acting, and also should and will be paid by their entire audience. If the paying audience feels abused by the non-paying audience, things may well be out of balance, and the paying audience will arrange a closed venue. If the musician feels underpaid for their work, they will stop performing or improve their performance.

    Performers are in fact paid by their entire audiences as a whole. Snoop Dog or Dr. Dre or some other rapper, hip-hopper or whatever will never be paid directly by me, and should never be paid indirectly by me, because I am not any part of their audience (I’m gonna have to google them to find out who/what they are!). I don’t blame them for wanting more pay! I don’t blame them for wanting something from me! Heck, I might enjoy seeing them, or one of them, actually in a live performance (not likely, but possible), but to get any of my money they’ll have to offer me something I’d be willing to purchase. If one of them or their counterparts tried to forcibly, physically take something from me otherwise it would be considered robbery (I don’t know, maybe that’s in their repertoire too already). Those that are making the most noise about being robbed of pay by the internet are those that simply do NOT perform! There is definitely a place for promoters, talent managers, legal representatives, and talent brokers. That place is questionable however, and is changing rapidly, and traditional aspects of their already questionable services are useless and they will in fact NOT be paid for doing some things, which clearly indicates that they should NOT do those things!

    My own current perception is that finally “the paybacks” have come around to the “record companies”, and of course they’re barking and squealing more loudly than ever, just as a few of my famous friends descriptively foretold in a little piece called “Animals” back in 1977.

    I’m happy to see that there are enough people of enough intelligence and foresight here among the mozzillians to present a clear alarm and resistance to this PIPA/SOPA activity. (all the sheep were kinda freakin’ me out…..)

  15. 15

    Pingback from Defeating SOPA and PIPA Isn’t Enough

    […] “stop” Internet piracy… in the most hamfisted way imaginable. As Mitchell Baker explains: Assume there’s a corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie […]

  16. 16

    sams said on March 1st, 2012 at 12:54 am:


    Thank you four your nice writing on


  17. 17

    Pingback from Mozilla反對SOPA「終止網路盜版法案」 | 訊息中心 | Mozilla Taiwan

    […] Mozilla一向支持網路開放自由,在SOPA法案提出時便積極參與反SOPA聯盟活動。Mozilla基金會Mitchell Baker在其部落格中表示,SOPA 法案並無法有效針對提供盜版內容的網站,也無法禁止企圖透過網路取得盜版內容的網友繼續下載盜版內容,而是針對那些沒有主動禁止提供或下載盜版內容的網站平台作出懲罰,其後果將是危險的。 […]

  18. 18

    Pingback from Today’s Links |

    […] “stop” Internet piracy… in the most hamfisted way imaginable. As Mitchell Baker explains: Assume there’s a corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie […]

  19. 19

    bitkiler said on March 18th, 2012 at 9:47 am:

    hi how long is this black out going to last very confused here plus will people be able to get in there sites to do like games yahoo anything what is this

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