January 19, 2012
What does SOPA mean for us foreigners?
The Stop Online Piracy Act is an American piece of legislation, and as a general rule, American legislation has only limited influence outside US borders. arstechnica reports.
SOPA is a little different from most legislation, however, in that it has an explicit focus on websites that are, in some sense, "foreign." SOPA regulates the dealings between American service providers—most notably search engines, advertising networks, and payment processors (such as PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard)—and foreign sites. Search engines will have to remove listings of offending foreign sites; advertising networks will have to stop selling ads to offending sites; payment processors will have to stop processing payments from Americans for offending sites.
Early versions of the bill also had provisions requiring disruption of DNS services, something that would have had an impact that was felt globally. Fortunately, these provisions have been dropped.
The delineation between foreign and domestic that SOPA makes is arbitrary and inaccurate. Canadians, whose IP address allocations are governed by the US-based ARIN, probably qualify as "domestic," and so may evade SOPA's regulations. So too might the Hong Kong-based MegaUpload, thanks to its dot-com domain name, and similarly the Switzerland-based RapidShare. The Pirate Bay might also escape SOPA's reach, thanks to a dot-org domain name. There's plenty of scope for interference with these sites' operations, through measures such as ICE takedowns. Just not necessarily using SOPA as the justification.
ut most foreign sites—those using domain names registered in non-US registrars, and/or IP addresses allocated by non-US regional Internet registries—are covered by SOPA. If they deal, in whole or in part, with Americans, and if this dealing involves counterfeit medicines or pirated intellectual property, they can find themselves victims of a range of unilateral actions. Search engines could purge them from their listings, and payment processors and advertisers could cut off their revenue streams.
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