If you haven’t heard, the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are new legislations that were (until this morning) sitting on the table of Congress in the USA to be potentially voted into law. While the original purpose of the SOPA bill is to stop piracy of copyrighted intellectual property such as movies, tv shows, video games & software, the provisions of the bill set a dangerous precedent to allow unprecedented amounts of power (to be exploited inevitably) by the government.

Here’s a few articles you can read to get a grasp of this unrealistic bill:

You may be wondering why this is so relevant, with a few questions.

“Isn’t this law about pirated movies and what not? How does it affect us?”

If this bill was crafted well enough to target only the movie piraters, it would be a nice indeed. However the provisions of the bill allow the US government to order ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to block out DNS queries of certain domains (in other words, the domains will no longer load) with a complaint from any copyrighted material holder, unless the defendant is willing to show up in US court to defend their case. Let’s imagine a worst-case scenario; while you write a blog article about the real estate market, you happen to quote a newspaper, or have the same phrase as another real estate statistic website… and some overzealous monitor spots your site and reports you. Your site could be down in a matter of days, with no chance of fighting it unless you take it to court. That’s just ridiculous abuse of power. And that is the main issue with the SOPA bill – it has so much potential for abuse that goes beyond stopping piracy of movies & TV shows.

This bill also is a major blow to the concept of content sharing, which is the backbone of how the internet works; to post links on Facebook, other blogs, other social media sites etc. It’s a vital tool for most small and medium businesses, as well as larger businesses. It’s how we get open access to information from sources other than mass media TV channels.

“But we are in Canada.”

True, most of our real estate agent customers are Canadian. But consider this – the law requires any USA based ISP to cease to display & route for domains they deem unfit. That means in the blink of an eye, due to some bad misunderstanding of where certain content came from, your site could be no longer visible to US viewers. And do we not have potential US buyers? Also Google (A US company) can be ordered by the government authorities on which sites (domestic or foreign) to block from its search results.

In short, this could affect even real estate websites. In fact the bill could break the internet as we know it, and affect the industry greatly. Check out this video:

So what can we all do? Show your support; educate your US friends about this bill, and urge them to contact their local representatives to have their voices heard against SOPA and PIPA. If you are a US citizen, please take your time to make your voice heard to your local senator & congressman. Wikipedia has a page set up to make it easy to find and contact your local representative.