The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — a U.S. House bill that would give the Department of Justice the authority to demand that ISPs block sites accused of hosting pirated content — seemed to be doing well. Nearly half of the Senate sponsored similar legislation that survived a committee vote. And people weren’t generally making a big deal about it.
But on the week before Thanksgiving SOPA suddenly hit the front page after a particularly fraught House committee hearing on the bill. Battle lines became clear. Representatives of big content owners like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) partnered with big brands and the US Chamber of Commerce in support of the legislation, saying it would protect millions of jobs. On the other side web entrepreneurs like Google, Twitter, and Facebook sided with Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the bill, saying it would basically give corporations a legal path to censor any site that poses a competitive threat.