A Brand Called "SOPA"

posted Jan 17, 2012, 10:49 PM by Edwin Marchan R.E. Broker   [ updated Jan 17, 2012, 10:49 PM ]

How free is freedom of speech if SOPA is approved?


SOPA: Stop Online Piracy Act, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith was announced late October and it will probably be the headline for all things digital in the upcoming weeks, months...

Internet enthusiasts and web companies around the world have hailed their opposition towards the proposed bill. In a couple of hours Wikipedia in English will black out in protest, we'll see if Google who claims ideals has the guts to get offline? Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn are also in the list, lets see when the rubber meets the road...if they will do the right thing or hide behind lawyers or under boardroom tables. In conjunction they announced that SOPA is "a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation's cyber security."

SOPA & PIPA the two bills procured are after Web sites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement than the United States is (in fact, the U.S. is probably the least hospitable jurisdiction in the world for such an endeavor). Because the target is offshore, a lawsuit against the owners in a U.S. court would be futile.

Who's behind SOPA & PIPA: 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: 

 "Rogue Web sites that steal America's innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs." 

The Motion Picture Association:

Highlighting an analysis it commissioned from First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, a former MPAA attorney, who concluded SOPA is perfectly constitutional. Here's another pro-SOPA rebuttal.

A Politico chart shows that Hollywood has outspent Silicon Valley by about tenfold on lobbyists in the last two years. Here's a CNET article on why the Chamber is so pro-SOPA.

Over 400 businesses and organizations have sent a letter supporting SOPA.

The Recording Industry Association of America:

SOPA could be used to force Internet providers to block by "Internet Protocol address" and deny "access to only the illegal part of the site." It would come as no surprise if copyright holders suggested wording to the Justice Department, which would in turn seek a judge's signature on the removal order

What will happen if SOPA is approved: 

"An explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation." 

It will allow the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It's kind of an Internet death penalty.

More specifically, section 102 of SOPA says that, after being served with a removal order:

 A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order...Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

What is SOPA after? 

Goes further than Protect IP and could require Internet providers to monitor customers' traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

Are there free speech implications to SOPA? 

SOPA's opponents say so--a New York Times op-ed called it the "Great Firewall of America--and the language of the bill itself is quite broad. Section 103 says that, to be blacklisted, a Web site must be "directed" at the U.S. and also that the owner "has promoted" acts that can infringe copyright.

Here's how Section 101 of the original version of SOPA defines what a U.S.-directed Web site is:

 
(A) the Internet site is used to provide goods or services to users located in the United States; 
(B) there is evidence that the Internet site or portion thereof is intended to offer or provide such goods and services (or) access to such goods and services (or) delivery of such goods and services to users located in the United States; 
(C) the Internet site or portion thereof does not contain reasonable measures to prevent such goods and services from being obtained in or delivered to the United States; and 
(D) any prices for goods and services are indicated or billed in the currency of the United States.

Some critics have charged that such language could blacklist the next YouTube, Wikipedia, or WikiLeaks. Especially in the case of WikiLeaks, which has posted internal documents not only from governments but also copyrighted documents from U.S. companies and has threatened to post more, it's hard to see how it would not qualify for blacklisting.

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox Web browser, responded by creating a page saying: "Protect the Internet: Help us stop the Internet Blacklist Legislation." It warns that "your favorite Web sites both inside and outside the US could be blocked based on an infringement claim."

Web sites including Wikimedia (as in, Wikipedia) charged that SOPA is an "Internet blacklist bill" that "would allow corporations, organizations, or the government to order an Internet service provider to block an entire Web site simply due to an allegation that the site posted infringing content." Tumblr "censored" its users' content streams, and reported that its users averaged 3.6 calls per second to Congress through the company's Web site--nearly 90,000 total.

Sources: CNET, Wikipedia

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