Self Help
While considering legislation that would make torrents illegal, House members are illegally downloading self-help books. Image: Flickr / sheadonato / CC-BY-ND

The Stop Online Piracy Act is a Congressional bill intended to increase copyright protections online. It is especially interesting, then, that torrent records show that individuals using Congressional internet access are illegally downloading everything from movies to self-help books.

Basics of SOPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act, officially known as H.R. 3261, was introduced as a companion to the PROTECT IP Act introduced in the Senate. If passed, the bill would allow copyright holders to file claims of copyright infringement. These claims would do everything from blocking online payment processors from doing business involving copyright infringement to forcing search engines to block access to the disputed content.

Finally, the bill would make any internet services completely immune from damage claims that may arise from actions taken to enforce copyright. Many opponents of the bill point out that the law could violate First Amendment free speech protections and cut the basic structure of the internet off at the knees.

Illegal downloading rampant in the House

YouHaveDownloaded is a service that associates IP addresses and torrent download history to create a database of torrent download history. The database is not comprehensive, but it does give a general history of downloads. Some estimates put YouHaveDownloaded as recording 20 percent of torrent downloads. A search of YouHaveDownloaded by torrentfreak.com shows that IP addresses associated with the House of Representatives have downloaded more than 800 pieces of illegal content, including self-help books, popular TV shows, movies and even extensive amounts of hardcore pornography. The self-help books downloaded illegally have included titles such as “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High,” and “How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want.”

Support for SOPA disintegrating

The vote on SOPA has been postponed until at least after Congress returns after the first of the year. While Congress is out of session, many of the businesses and organizations that have supported the passage of SOPA have been targeted by opponents. The most noticeable example of this is the domain-registration service GoDaddy, which originally supported the bill. It faced a large customer backlash and drain of customers to other services. GoDaddy has now come out strongly against SOPA, citing customer feedback.

Sources

PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2398186,00.asp
Miller-McCune: http://www.miller-mccune.com/politics/sopa-debate-highlights-congresss-ignorance-38666/
TorrentFreak: http://torrentfreak.com/while-drafting-sopa-us-house-harbors-bittorrent-pirates-111226/
LifeHacker: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/12/you-have-downloaded-tracks-your-bittorrent-use/

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