Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

It's been shelved for now, but have you heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)? Eerie attempt by the government to usher in a new era of Big Brother type regulation of the Internet. I definitely feel that counterfeit drugs, pirated videos, and stolen copyrighted material is very uncool, but I don't think that crushing the little guy will stop any of it. Shutting down a pirate website will only delay the inevitable - as bloggers, we all know how easy it is to set up a website. The other side of the coin is the staggering amount of research needed to weed out the outkaw websites from those who are (at least trying to) follow the rules.

Source: Highball Blog

"The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign owned and operated sites, and citing examples of "active promotion of rogue websites" by U.S. search engines, proponents say stronger enforcement tools are needed.

Opponents say the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the "safe harbor" protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Library associations have expressed concerns that the bill's emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents state that requiring search engines to delete a domain name could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented censorship of the Web and violates the First Amendment.

Pfizer spokesman John Clark testified that patients could not always detect cleverly forged websites selling drugs that were either mis-branded or simply counterfeit.

RxRights, a consumer-advocacy group, issued a statement saying that Clark failed "to acknowledge that there are Canadian and other international pharmacies that do disclose where they are located, require a valid doctor's prescription and sell safe, brand-name medications produced by the same leading manufacturers as prescription medications sold in the U.S." They had earlier said that SOPA "fails to distinguish between counterfeit and genuine pharmacies" and would prevent American patients from ordering their medications from Canadian pharmacies online."

Source: Wikipedia

This means you might not be able to order  drugs from a Canadian Pharmacy  or enjoy videos on YouTube, let alone share images and content on Facebook - Constantin wrote very clearly on this over at the Highball Blog:

“Basically, the entertainment businesses (Hollywood movie brands and music production companies) are trying to enforce a law that will shut down websites that offer access or information on how to access their copyrighted material.

The problem is that the government will have to power to seize your website and block your domain name just because a commentator left a link that leads to a site that shows copyrighted content. And if you embed a video on your blog that contains copyrighted footage or music (I know I did that) you're in the same bucket with big time spammers and hackers.

And since the law is formulated in broad terms, there will be enough room for them to decide what should be online and what not. So this is nothing else than the beginning of a censorship.

If they consider that what you say or show might cause revenue losses for the entertainment industry, they'll shut you down.

Websites that you enjoy and benefit from will also be affected - YouTube, Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, Posterous, Facebook, Twitter - all sites where users create and distribute content.”

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4 comments:

  1. This worked really well 8-10 years ago when the government started suing college kids for trading MP3's - no one gets free music of the Internet anymore.

    Copyright and patent enforcement should remain the responsibilities of the Copyright and Patent owners. Owning a Copyright and Patent gives the owners legal basis in which to defend their property - ON THEIR OWN.

    We (my company) seeks federal injunctions against the illegal use of our client's IP all the time + arranges for enforcement of the same, at our client's specific direction and at their cost.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree the government should stay out of IP protection and the private sector should protect their own IP.

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  3. I was glad to see the SOPA blackout be effective. This is not something the government needs to get involved in, they're already into too much. Individuals have a responsibility to "self-govern" to an extent. The government should only have to step in for things we can't do for ourselves/individually like building roads and bridges (among other stuff of course).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sopa will not go away. It will be reintroduced as the internet freedom act / save the children / counter terrorism bill month after month for years until it slips through on Christmas eve one day. The control freaks in the criminal corporate/government class need this to shut down observation of their treason and looting of the treasury for personal gain.

    ReplyDelete

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