The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261, is legislation introduced in the United States House of Representatives to enforce current laws that make stealing intellectual property and trafficking in counterfeit goods illegal.
The legislation will provide a way for United States courts to penalize foreign websites that are currently outside the reach of United States courts. If SOPA becomes law, Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required to filter domain names to identify sites that are found by federal courts to be in violation of the law. ISPs will be required to redirect traffic from such sites. The legislation also specifies that a federal court can order a direct payment company to sever ties with a site that has been found in violation.
Proponents of the legislation are eager to shut down sites that break United States laws, pointing out that online piracy and the trafficking of counterfeit goods deprives the United States economy of a highly significant amount of revenue each year.
Critics of the legislation and its United States Senate equivalent, the Protect IP Act, are concerned that legislators do not fully understand how the Internet works. On the technical side, IT security professionals throughout the world have raised concerns that PIPA's domain name system (DNS) filtering is incompatible with DNSSEC. DNSSEC is a set of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards that address vulnerabilities in the Domain Name System (DNS) and protect it from online threats.
Continue reading about SOPA and PIPA:
The United States House of Representatives website has more information about SOPA.
The United States Senate website has more information about PIPA.