Companies like Google, Mozilla and Facebook have been speaking out against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), but Apple and Microsoft have obliquely thrown their support behind the legislation. Microsoft, along with Apple, Adobe, and a host of other major companies are part of the Business Software Alliance which supports the bill, VentureBeat reports.
The Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act ('Prevent Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property') was introduced back in May by Sen Patrick Leahy (D), but is currently on indefinite hold. SOPA was introduced to the House on Oct. 26. The bill would force American payment providers, like Visa or PayPal, to cut off transactions with infringing sites, even those that are located overseas.
The Business Software Alliance, made up of tech giants like Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and Dell, stated in a low key press release from back when SOPA was first introduced that they supported the bill. This explains Microsoft's silence on the bill, while other companies are rallying against it. Robert Holleyman, President and CEO of the BSA said that it was “...Important to strike the right balance between two sets of considerations – enabling effective action against online pirates, while ensuring the law does not impede technology innovation or the evolution of software and the internet...”
Due to the drastic changes it would cause in the way users access websites, some experts are afraid that it could do just that, according, ironically enough, to MSNBC. The bills also give federal courts the power to order ISPs, as well as search engines, to block websites that they feel infringe on intellectual property. This would require filtering DNS servers – the servers that match the address that you enter (neowin.net) to the IP (18.104.22.168). The filtered DNS wouldn't be able to connect the address that you enter with the IP you need to connect to the website.
Another problem is deciding what constitutes an infringing website. If every website hosting pirated content were to be blocked, virtually all user-created content portals, from YouTube to Windows Live Skydrive, would be taken down. Even though these sites have legitimate uses and are commercial products, the fact that some users upload pirated content would give the copyright owners justification to have them blocked, if SOPA passes.
It's sad to see Microsoft supporting a bill that is so dangerous to digital freedom, even if the support is coming from an organization that they are part of, rather than them independently. Luckily, even with some high profile support, SOPA has many high profile opponents, too, both in government and the technology industry. Right now, the chances of it becoming law are slim, but the scary truth is that another bill that's just as bad (or worse) will replace it before it's cleared the floor. As soon as one threat to internet freedom is defeated, another rises in its place. There's no time for complacency.
Head over to the Neowin Forums to join the discussion and share your thoughts on SOPA and internet freedom.