History of the SOPA Act

Before we can talk about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), we need to look at why it was proposed to begin with.

Origins of United States Copyright Law

In 1790, the First Congress passed into law the nation's first copyright law: The Copyright Act of 1790, which was based on the British Statute of Anne. It gave authors the right to print and publish their work for fourteen years, and could be renewed for another fourteen year period if so desired. The law was intended to provide incentive for creating original works by providing the creator with a monopoly, while also sparking creativity by keeping copyright monopolies limited and allowing wide public access to works in the "public domain." Over time, the Copyright Act has seen multiple revisions by Congress, such as allowing all authored works to fall under copyright law and to let copyright last for longer periods.

Copyright and Technology

Many revisions of copyright law have dealt specifically with the effects of new technologies. For example, a major revision in 1976 included a new section that allowed library photocopying without permission for preservation, scholarship, and interlibrary loan under certain circumstances. In 1990, commercial lending of software was banned for everyone except libraries. The Florida District Court ruled in 1993 that someone does not have to know that they are infringing on copyright to be doing so, though intent to infringe is still important for a trial court to determine damages. This is particularly important, as with the Internet becoming larger and an increased number of people uploading original content online, it has become more and more common for people to copy files — either intentionally or unintentionally — without checking to see if the creator is okay with it being copied.



[1]Copyright Timeline