I walk by a pretty good bootleg DVD stand a few times a month — the proprietor sets up at irregular intervals in Union Square just a few blocks away from The Verge offices in New York. Instead of just offering up ripped DVDs with handwritten titles in paper sleeves, he sells meticulous copies of the entire package from sleeve to disc label, and there are a few legitimate used DVDs thrown in for flavor. If not for the suspiciously low prices and the occasional printing error, you might not ever know the entire operation was operating in brazen defiance of the law.

Stands like these are an important touchpoint when you read or hear about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and its sister bill in the Senate, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA. Both bills attempt to deal with online sites that traffic in illegally copied content, but at extreme cost of remaking the architecture of the internet itself. That’s a high price to pay, especially since neither bill will actually curb real piracy: SOPA and PIPA are the effective equivalent of blowing up every road, bridge, and tunnel in New York to keep people from getting to one bootleg stand in Union Square — but leaving the stand itself alone.

Let's dig in.