Effects of SOPA on non-Americans

Few weeks ago, after small and major web sites blacked out in protest of SOPA, the US congress decided to pause it. Note, they did not throw it out completely but until they can come up with changes to make it pass. So the battle is not exactly over, even though the Internet won the first round. Those outside the US may think that American law does not affect them, but in reality it does, directly and indirectly. The latest victim was the file upload service Megaupload that was used both legitimately and illegitimately by users. The owner lived in New Zealand, had servers in many locations including places that were considered to be "safe" such as the Netherlands. They were also incorporated in Hong Kong. If you visit Megaupload (and its associated services) you will come across the following on its page (known as an ICE take down):

So how does SOPA affect those outside of US jurisdiction?

  • If it does pass in the US, what prevents it from spreading to other countries? DMCA take downs are even enforced by hosting providers outside the US with no business ties in the US.
  • People will stop being creative. No more video, music and images sharing to name a few. The mentality will be "if it looks illegal it probably is" even though it might be completely original content that publishers are willing to share.
  • A large portion of services used in the US are used by those outside. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and much, much more.
  • Do you have a website? There is a chance you are hosting it on an American web hosting company. Something you put on that is not illegal in your country, might be in the US. This blog is hosted in the UK, but the company providing the service is incorporated in the US, thus coming under US jurisdiction.
  • Do you own a domain operated by a US entity? .com and .net are run by Verisign (a US based company), .org is US based as well. Look at what the Department of Justice did to Megaupload's page. All it takes is a change in the nameservers.
  • If you use something like PayPal to receive payments, you may have your account suspended and frozen. Even if you were selling stuff legal in your country or region.
  • Search engines could start censoring results. Google provide search results based on location, but come under US laws, so they may not show you results to services legal in your country but illegal in the US.

This is by far not an exhaustive list. The list goes on and on and on. So in case SOPA comes up again, think how it might affect you living outside the US. Every little bit of support helps.

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