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It seems that practically everyone other than Hollywood IP rights holders has come out against the extremely controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (PDF), the House’s counterpart to the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act. Before getting into that, however, let’s take a look at the act itself:
The bill sets up a system whereby rights holders are able to punish websites that are “dedicated to the theft of US property.” While this seems like a worthwhile goal, the requirements to activate the provisions in the bill are minimal. Merely a part of a website must:
- be directed toward the US
- allegedly “engage in, enable or facilitate” copyright infringement
- allegedly taking steps to “avoid confirming a high probability” of infringement
Now is where the fun begins. Once a right holder decides that some website is a vicious, job-killing, copyright-infringing haven for pirates, it can notify the payment processors of that site, as well as any ad services it relies on. They have five days to cut off any financial system the website relies upon. Rather than directly shutting the site down, SOPA strangles it economically.
But what about due process, you may ask. Once a site has been targeted, it may file an appeal, but only has five days to do so. So, now the website is financially choked to death, never mind that the DMCA already covers US sites and copyright infringement, or that courts have held that websites gets access to a safe harbor by taking down infringing content when notified. Even legitimate companies are not happy about it.
Google (PDF), along with AOL, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo!, and Zynga have expressed their concern that SOPA would “undermine” the DMCA and the well-established balance it strikes between protecting IP and encouraging, promoting, and sheltering innovation. Furthermore, the NY Times and the LA Times have both officially come out against SOPA, worried about the “risky extremes” that the bill takes in protecting IP, which could easily result in overwhelming liability for innocent sites that host user-generated content. Additionally, a large consortium of websites has also called for an “American Censorship Day,” where internet users can “censor” their website to spread the word about SOPA and its harmful effects.
It remains to be seen what will become of SOPA and PROTECT IP, but if internet users and companies have anything to say about it, it’s NO!
– Brandon Trout
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