The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): Another brilliant concoction from our fellow elected officials in the House of Representatives. Last week we spoke about the NDAA which aims to cripple one-third of our Bill of Rights; today we bring you SOPA, which will single-handedly take down whatever is left.
In attempts to completely halt the illegal distribution and sharing of copyrighted materials, Congress has created the controversial bill that, many believe, will cripple or completely destroy the Internet. SOPA’s Senate counter-part is the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and both would enable copyright holders and the Justice Department to get court orders against any sites that “engage in, enable, or facilitate” copyright infringement. In addition, courts could stop advertisers from doing business with the site charged with violating the act, order search engines to stop listing the accused web sites, or even require ISP’s to block access completely.
What does this mean for you?
If this should pass, one of the many sites affected would be yours truly – antisteez.com because any site linking to any copyrighted material would also be in violation. Others to feel the blow will be Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and the millions of independent website administrators that make their living through their sites and blogs.
For whoever doesn’t fall in the above-mentioned category, you will have the privilege of surfing through a highly-monitored, excessively-censored Internet mimicking what communists countries like Cuba or China enjoy. Censorship like the bill offers will be very similar to what certain Arab countries implemented earlier in the year that sparked revolutions among their populations.
Today sites that violate copyright laws are notified and given the opportunity to take down the material in question or argue the right to post or share it. There is even a “safe harbor” provision that reduces or eliminates a sites liability under the law as long as the party performed its actions in good faith or in compliance with defined standards. Under SOPA, sites will not have that right. They will face immediate action – including being taken down before they have a chance to respond.
The non-profit or low-budget sites who may not have the monetary resources to defend themselves from such costly lawsuits would crumble. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook would be spending exorbitant amounts of time and money to monitor their sites each day for offending material.
Those much more knowledgeable than myself believe the bill infringes on the very right of free speech. Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe says: “The notice-and-termination procedure of [the bill] runs afoul of the prior restraint doctrine, because it delegates to a private party the power to suppress speech without prior notice and a judicial hearing. This provision of the bill would give complaining parties the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice accusing the site of being dedicated to theft of U.S. property – even if no court has actually found any infringement.”
And Julian Sanchez, a Research Fellow at Cato@Liberty believes that the bill “still makes it far too easy for U.S. corporations to effectively destroy foreign Internet sites based on a one-sided proceeding in U.S. courts.”
The broad language in the bill threatens all kinds of Internet uses and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a coalition aimed at defending our rights in the digital world, worries that the bill will still target tools that might be used to circumvent the blacklist essential to human rights activists and political dissidents around the world.
Tech-experts believe the bills would “break” the Internet by giving the courts power to order rogue sites to be removed from the Domain Name System, and ISP’s would act as if the site did not exist at all. Due to the globalization of the World Wide Web, it’s possible users could seek out foreign DNS servers to access these “blacklisted” sites and such measures could compromise the Internet’s architecture.
Support and Opposition
Backed by Hollywood and the Recording Industry of America, many of the politicians pushing for the bill have probably been bought in a number of ways. Certainly it grants the courts dominion over the largest platform we have ever created and causes monopolies because there would only be one place to see trailers, one place to hear singles, etc. and all of it would have a price for accessing. Meanwhile the Chamber of Commerce and the America Union Movement – AFL-CIO are arguing that online piracy is costing jobs.
But the opposition is strong as well. Net moguls like Google, Yahoo!, Twitter, eBay, and Wikimedia, as well as civil liberties groups such as the ACLU, have launched a massive anti-SOPA/PIPA movement that is causing public uproar and backlash.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a rousing speech on the topic of Internet freedom at George Washington University, equating the Web to a vibrant, democratic town square without geographical boundaries.
In Washington, it is being held by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), and together with Republican Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) have drafted an alternative that would provide more protections to accused sites and halt consequences until a full hearing has been completed by the International Trade Commission.
This less-abrasive bill is being called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN); although many think is still flawed, it offers a reasonable starting point to find a comfortable compromise between the two sides. Rep. Issa has released an illustration showing a clear side-by-side comparison of the three bills:
So now what?
Now you make up your mind and decide which side you want to stand on.
The House Judiciary Committee might consider SOPA this month: “The … Stop Online Piracy Act markup will resume on Wednesday at 9 A.M. if the House is in session,” a spokeswoman said Monday. “We do not have any additional information at this time.”
The Senate is preparing PIPA for late January. For anyone who is a part of the “Net-generation,” these proposed bills are detrimental. Additionally, thousands of on-line based jobs in the video game industry, music, movies and even pornography can be eliminated. The thick blanket of power that SOPA and PIPA would spread over everything we enjoy and need online will halt even the most benign of uploads. For example, if you upload a video of your baby dancing you are in violation of these acts if the music she is dancing to is copyrighted.
If you post on your Twitter your favorite movie’s trailer, you are in violation. The beloved DJ Guilletine’s Podcasts will be a thing of the past, and even this article which contains links to bigger publications such as Forbes and The Washington Post would be illegal. Sites that recommend which electronics to buy, which CD’s to listen to, what places to visit, what celebrity is appearing where and when, sports commentary and highlights … Gone Baby, Gone.
Antisteez.com is anti-SOPA and PIPA. The message involved here is join us and together our voices will be heard. To express your disgust in this matter go here, here or here. And for those who are still undecided on where they stand, I leave you with this:
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
- Thomas Jefferson