In an open letter to lawmakers, the CEOs and founders of several innovative tech companies have cautioned that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the senate version, the PROTECT IP act, would have a "chilling effect" on innovation.
Some critics go so far as to compare the provisions of the bills to laws in place in counties such as China, which routinely blocks sites that the government deems undesirable. Certainly a lot of people see this legislation as a threat to the free flow of information. Mozilla went so far as to modify their Firefox browser logo (that gets displayed when you upgrade Firefox) to have a blackout bar across it.
Some in congress are suggesting alternative proposals, such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who offered the Online Protection and ENforcement of Digital Trade Act ( OPEN act ). Others have offered amendments that would reign in the most radical powers that SOPA would grant the US Attorney General, but these amendments have so far been rejected by the committee.
The issues with SOPA are many: it would effectively end the DMCA safe harbor provision, in favor of immediate takedowns. It would even ban linking in search results or social media to offending sites. Because of these provisions, Youtube would likely not exist if SOPA had ben in effect when it was invented. Others complain that the definitions of criminal activity as so vague that they could be used to criminalize common uses of the Internet.
SOPA may not even accomplish it's stated goals: many, including Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt say that SOPA will be ineffective against piracy, and that it will fundamentally change the way the internet works.
It also may force companies to introduce instability to systems like DNS. For example, SOPA could require ISPs to cause DNS resolution to fail for sites that are suspected of piracy, even when such failures compromise the integrity of the Domain Name resolution system.
Who would benefit if SOPA passes? Apparently, RIAA, no stranger to copyright infringement lawsuits, and others with large investments in copyrighted material. See their open letter of support here.
It remains to be seen whether the interests that back SOPA as written will prove more powerful than the tech innovators and citizens groups who value the free flow of information.