The following is a comment I wrote to the TED Talk by Clay Shirky where he outlines the meaning and danger of the SOPA and PIPA acts that the US congress is currently contemplating. It seems unfortunate to me that, even in a community filled with brilliant people such as TED, the majority of the discussion was focused on whether or not piracy of copyrighted material was a problem. Yes it is a related issue, but of small importance when considering the real implications SOPA could have.
"What Monsanto did to agriculture, SOPA could do to the internet. Arguing about whether or not media piracy is a problem misses the point by a mile, because SOPA wont stop it and will likely not even have a big effect on it. US users will still be able to access copyrighted-media sharing sites (based in other countries) simply by knowing their IP address.
The two things that WILL happen are: 1) US-based sites that facilitate interaction between US citizens will be targeted. Places where we share our ideas (and may occasionally reference/use copyrighted material) will become scapegoats and could get shut down or become highly censored. And 2) Countries around the world, particularly dictatorships, will follow the US model and use it as an excuse to censor their citizens and prevent uprisings. How much would we known of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and now Syria without their free, unfiltered access to social media?
Saying SOPA is an anti-piracy initiative trying to protect our media industry is just another government attempt to slip a ridiculously harmful law into the books while we look the other way because the actors/writers/artists etc that we look up to are supportive. Lets not fall for it!"
Another video that lays SOPA out clearly, from the website Fight for the Future
Follow Up: The SOPA vote has been postponed (for now). See here. Score one for the people! But keep vigilant, they are bound to try again.