Funny how quickly the world changes. A mere decade ago, something like SOPA appearing in the US Congress would have been unthinkable.

SOPA, for those of you who are unaware, is the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill being debated in US Congress at the moment. If enacted, it would give the US Department of Justice vast and sweeping powers to crack down on those who commit copyright infringement online. That’s the basic gist of it. If you want more detail, you can always check out the Wikipedia article.

Wikipedia, incidentally, has just pulled off an absolutely brilliant move. If you’re reading this the day it was published (January 18th) you’ll find that you’re completely unable to access Wikipedia’s English language site, except for the article on SOPA, and a few key related articles. How brilliant is that? The Internet is absolutely abuzz with SOPA talk today, and the vast majority of it is because of Wikipedia. People go to Wikipedia to look something up, find out that it’s down, and then end up reading the SOPA article and becoming outraged. Now that’s how you mobilize public opinion. Bravo, Wikimedia.

Anyhow, as with any controversial piece of legislation, you have supporters and detractors. The detractors are generally people like you and me – the scrubs who go around the Internet, benefiting from copyright infringement. The supporters are generally people in the entertainment industry. You know, the ones who we’re stealing from on a daily basis when we download music, use pirated software, or watch certain videos on Youtube.

I’m not like a lot of the detractors in that I can actually see where the supporters are coming from.

Copyright infringement is wrong. Piracy is wrong. When we do these things, as we do on a daily basis, we are stealing. Make no mistake about that. So, at least in theory, SOPA is a good thing in that regard, as it’ll crack down on us scumbags.

But on the other hand, I’m a realist. If SOPA goes through, despite the fact that I’m not an American citizen, my life will be negatively impacted by it. For example, I’m a Calgary Flames fan. This means that I like to watch Calgary Flames games. The problem is that I live in Toronto, where the Toronto Maple Leafs occupy most of the TV’s airtime. Only about 15-20 Flames games are broadcast in Toronto per year out of an 82 game season. In order to see the others, I have two options. First, I could subscribe to Gamecentre Live for $130 per year and watch every Flames game from my PC. Second, I could use online streams for free. I’ll give you three guesses as to which option I choose.

Under SOPA however, the sites that I use to locate streams (which are American) as well as the people streaming the games (who are often American) would be subject to prosecution. In short, that means no more Flames hockey for me, which leaves me an unhappy man. Watching Flames hockey also tends to leave me an unhappy man, but that’s a whole other subject.

On the bright side, I doubt SOPA will pass. While I’m by no means an expert on American politics, conventional wisdom and common sense make it unlikely that this bill will become an act. Public opinion is against it, and it’s an election year. Whether or not Congressmen keep their jobs into 2013 will depend largely on their opinions on the Affordable Care Act and SOPA. They won’t push it through. If they defy conventional wisdom (which, to be fair, American politicians often do), then it’ll end up in the courts, where a long legal battle will ensue over whether or not it’s constitutional. But I doubt it’ll reach that point. High profile legislation + low public support + election year = failure.

Those are my thoughts, anyhow. I’d love to hear yours.

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