I’ve been trying to understand what the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would or wouldn’t do. Would it simply protect intellectual property? Then I’m somewhat sympathetic. Why just “somewhat?” See my previous post and the links therein. Or would it do something more. Here’s an analogy from Mitchell Baker:

To understand more clearly what SOPA does and the range of consequences, it’s helpful to use an analogy from the physical world where we all have many years of experience.

Assume there’s a corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie industry believes that some or even all of the videos in that store are unauthorized copies, so that they’re not being paid when people watch their movies. What should be done?

SOPA/PIPA don’t aim at the people trying to get to the store. SOPA/ PIPA don’t penalize or regulate the store itself. SOPA and PIPA penalize us if we don’t block the people trying to get to the store. [Bold mine.]

The solution under the proposed bills is to make it as difficult as possible to find or interact with the store. Maps showing the location of the store must be changed to hide it. The road to the store must be blocked off so that it’s difficult to physically get to there. Directory services must unlist the store’s phone number and address. Credit card companies would have to cease providing services to the store. Local newspapers would no longer be allowed to place ads for the video store. And to make sure it all happens, any person or organization who doesn’t do this is subject to penalties. Even publishing a newsletter that tells people where the store is would be prohibited by this legislation.

This is what SOPA and PIPA would impose in the online world. It’s very different than targeting the owner of the video store directly. The obligations to make websites hard to find apply to all citizens and businesses. Each one of us is subject to punishment and fines if we don’t follow these prohibitions.

Question: is she accurate? [“She” in italics because I originally called Mitchell Baker a “he.” Thanks to commenter Duncan for the correction.]