Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a lot of comments on this website as well as others regarding the SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) that I find very alarming. But it is not the content of the bill I find alarming in these statements. Sure, I have my issues with the bill, but what alarms me are some of the insane ideas people have about the bill and what it does and what it does not do. The more I read, the more I understand it is the propagation of poor ideas from others. Essentially, people are taking a lot of time to read other's opinions on the bill, which come from other's opinions until it is just diluted crap, rather than the bill itself.


I strongly recommend reading the bill for yourself BEFORE you read the opinions of others. For those without time to read the bill itself or are confused about a particular meaning, I am going to do a series of blogs covering a few sections at a time, starting today. I promise you that I will do my absolute best to avoid making comments one way or the other on particular sections and simply summarize/translate into plain English what is being said in the bill. My aim is not to sway your opinions one way or the other, it is simply to make sure you are educated on the facts of the bill so you can formulate your own opinions and be informed when reading, listening to, and watching the opinions of others.

 I warn you ahead of time, being educated on the facts may make you appear to be a cynical ass when you start calling people out on their bulls***. So, without further ado, part one of my summarization and translation of SOPA. For those who wish to follow along, the bill in its entirety can be found here.


Section 1 - This section is simply a table of contents, just a short way to find the various areas of the bill, not worth a detailed read as we will be covering all segments.

Section 2 - This section covers various clauses pertinent to the bill as presented.

a.1 "FIRST AMENDMENT- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech or the press protected under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution."

  • This is a common clause inserted into many bills and is commonly misunderstood. No matter what a bill places in a clause, it can never trump a Constitutional Ammendment.

a.2 "TITLE 17 LIABILITY- Nothing in title I shall be construed to enlarge or diminish liability, including vicarious or contributory liability, for any cause of action available under title 17, United States Code, including any limitations on liability under such title."

  • This may sound confusing, but actually is not. Essentially, it is stating that the bill is not designed to increase or decrease any punishments (liabilities) under the United States Code that outlines copyright law (Title 17).

b. "Severability- If any provision of this Act, or the application of the provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be unconstitutional, the other provisions or the application of the provision to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby."

  • This means that if a court proceeding determines that a certain portion of this bill has violated the Constitutional rights of a defendant, the rest of the bill is not automatically deemed unconstitutional because of its association to the unconstitutional portion.

Section 101 - This section is a series of definitions for terminology throughout the bill. As this dissection will be decoding those terms anyways, we will skip this section. However, anyone seeking to read this, or any other bill, should not skip the definitions section. Failure to understand the exact definition of certain terms can lead to serious misunderstandings regarding bills. These sections exist in laws and contracts to dispel any uncertainties as to what is meant.

Section 102 - This section defines the actions that may be taken by the "Attorney General to protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. support of foreign infringing sites", the actions cover only foreign infringing sites and the legal actions that can be taken taken focus on narrowing support from US customers and businesses.

  • This first portion of this section (part a) explains the definition of a "foreign infringing site" to be a website that (must qualify for all of the below):
  • o       Is a site whose internet protocol address is not within a judicial district of the United States
  • o       Is used to conduct business directed towards citizens of the United States
  • o       Has an owner or operator in violation of certain sections of the Us criminal or penal code (Title  18), these sections include counterfeiting, espionage, and selling trade secrets
  • o       Would be punishable under the remainder of this bill if the site were a US based website
  • Part b explains that the Attorney General can take action against a registrant or an owner/operator of a foreign infringing website, as described above. If a registrant or owner/operator cannot be located, the domain or infringing site itself will be named as the violator. The Attorney General is then required to send a notice of the violation(s) and a notice of intent to proceed with legal actions in response to those violations along with any other court required paperwork.
  • o       b.5 is an important piece to note. It gives authority to the court (note this is NOT the Attorney General) to grant temporary injunctions against an applicable person (owner, registrant, domain, etc..) if the court feels it is necessary BEFORE innocence or guilt is officially determined.
  • Subsection c explains the actions that can be taken if an infringing site is determined to be guilty:
  • o       Internet service providers are expected to take steps to prevent US users from being able to access the website within reason. ISP's are not required to change their network or facilities to make this happen.
  • o       Internet search engines must make technologically feasible efforts to prevent users from being directed to the foreign infringing site.
  • o       Payment network providers (Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc...) must make efforts to stop transactions within accounts related to the foreign infringing site that are being completed by U.S. based customers.
  • o       Internet advertising agencies must cease doing business with or accepting payments from the foreign infringing site.
  • Part 4 of subsection c explains that any of the above entities ordered to take actions against a foreign infringing site that knowingly and willfully fail to do so can be fined, but no other action can be taken against them or their officers/employees. It also explains that an entity that cannot technologically fulfill the orders cannot be fined.
  • Part five of subsection c provides protection to those entities issued orders against a foreign infringing site from the actions of their customers who try to circumvent the changes made in good faith.
  • Subsection d explains that an order can be changed, suspended or terminated through a motion filed by the owner of the copyrighted material, the owner/operator/registrant of the site, the domain authority, or any of the entities required to take action.
  • o       Parts 2 and 3 explain that any entity with action taken against it that is proven innocent or stops providing the copyrighted material may be eligible for monetary compensation so long as the site was not sold to another entity.
  • Subsection e gives the court the authority to extend any court orders to additional domains if the Attorney General can prove the domain moved to a new site.
  • Subsection 4 explains the need and right to notify applicable law enforcement relating to any judgments or orders made.

This gets a bit tedious, both to write and to read, so we'll stop here for now. There is still plenty more to go.


If you want to comment, great, but let's keep the I hate/love SOPA comments for another time, this blog is not about what is right or wrong, it is about the facts. If you feel I have summarized something incorrectly or would like additional detail, please comment as such and I will take a look at it.