In light of the recent controversy surrounding the two newest anti-piracy bills, The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and The Protect IP Act (PIPA), you may be wondering what exactly the deal is. We’re here to help.

What are the bills?

“SOPA [is] a U.S. House bill to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.”

“PIPA is a proposed law with the stated goal of giving the US government and copyright holders additional tools to curb access to ‘rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods’, especially those registered outside the U.S.”

Why do content providers support them?

Well, in laymen’s terms, the bills are attempting to curb online piracy, which threatens companies that provide trademarked content.

It seems hard to disagree with the fact that online piracy is bad. It creates declining profits for artists whose music sales are their livelihood. It threatens jobs and revenue in the movie industry. The Motion Picture Association of America argues that the bills protect the intellectual-property market and revenue, and additional action is needed to greater enforce the current copyright laws.

Why do Internet companies disagree with them?

Internet companies maintain that the bills stifle the creative, content-sharing nature of the Web. Under the rules that SOPA and PIPA would impose, the amount of internet start-ups would likely decrease, as people would be scared of committing an infraction and facing hefty legal costs, not to mention the complete close-down of their website. Many are wary of the fact that entire communities on the Internet could be taken down with no advance warning, simply due to the actions of one errant user.

On Thursday, Jan. 18th, there were an estimated 7,000 sites that held either a complete blackout or a message opposing the bills to protest. Wikipedia was one of the Internet giants that chose to hold a blackout, rendering its site useless as it posted a message that read:

What’s happening now?

In response to the protests, several co-sponsors of the bill withdrew their sponsorships, while others actually announced their opposition. Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, wrote on his Facebook page:

“Better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time.”

It was announced earlier today that Congress will postpone action on the two bills. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was intending to call a vote for PIPA on Jan. 24th, but in light of the recent protests, it’s unclear when that will occur. Representative Lamar Smith of Congress announced that consideration of SOPA (which was supposed to resume in February) is on hold indefinitely.

PC World
CBS News