SOPA gives the Department of Justice the ability to stop online sites outside of the United States from infringing on copyright law. Put simply, this means that all websites outside of the United States that allow peer-to-peer file sharing, steaming, etc. of material copyrighted in the U.S. will be blocked. According to Wikipedia, ". . . the U.S. Attorney General could require US-directed Internet service providers, ad networks, and payment processors to suspend doing business with sites found to infringe on federal criminal intellectual property laws. The Attorney General could also bar search engines from displaying links to the sites."
According to the Government, SOPA is being put forth to protect intellectual property. Many sites get away with piracy because they are not in the U.S. And, as a way to address this issue, the Government is trying to make a stand. From the outside, this seems as if it is a reasonable idea. People have a right to what they create and should not fear that someone can or will steal it. However, as seen with Napster and the copyright on music sharing, one has to wonder how far the Government will go in order to uphold SOPA. Further, it could be argued that this is just one step in the direction of full Internet censorship on a Federal level.
As can be expected, this has caused a huge uproar. Many people feel that SOPA is a direct violation of the First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech. In an open letter, Laurence H. Tribe argues that there are many reasons—including the wording and the allowances it makes for complainants—that SOPA can be seen to be a violation. (For a full copy of the letter, follow this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/75153093/Tribe-Legis-Memo-on-SOPA-12-6-11-1)
After giving it a lot of thought, I decided not to blackout my website. Even though I completely and utterly fight against Government censorship, I feel that people need to read the facts and create their own opinions, which is why I am writing this post. I feel that SOPA is just the tip of the iceberg. The Government has been trying to control the Internet for a long time. If they are able to pass this bill, what is to stop them from completely shutting down freedom of information? In addition, the whole concept that someone can be shut down without a judicial hearing makes me enraged! And, if that weren't enough, I am afraid that SOPA will give people too much freedom and license to complain about anything they feel is threatening. However, to be fair, the bill does try to allow protections for people who have been falsely accused.
If you are interested in learning more and forming your own opinions on the matter, please take a look at Wikipedia's explanation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopa#Impact_on_online_freedom_of_speech). I feel that they do a good job of explaining SOPA without having a bias either way.
If, after looking at the information, you feel as though the Government is infringing on your rights as an American citizen, I encourage you to write your Congressman, blog about it, and take part in the blackout. It is up to us to stay active in our Government and be aware of the issues!