Congress is considering a law they say will stop online piracy. Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA will force websites that host content to become digital police and would lead to their shut down just based on a mere whiff of copyright infringement without due process. It and the US Senate version called Protect IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011), would stifle digital innovation, kill jobs, and would violate basic legal due process rights.
The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice as well as copyright holders to seek court orders against sites accused of copyright infringement or even enabling it. Depending on the circumstances, it could block the use of PayPal on the site, disallow sites like Google or Bing from listing a site or force them to block it entirely. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a felony.
Supporters claim that the law would only be used to go after foreign based websites – which constitute the largest amount of stolen content, but I for one know laws like SOPA will snag some US based sites. Just look what happened with the Patriot Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The LA Times writes:
Both bills go to risky extremes, however, in their efforts to stop these sites from attracting an audience. Of the two, the House bill goes further down the wrong path, weakening protections for companies — including those based in the United States — that enable users to store, publish or sell goods online. The change could force such companies to monitor everything their users do, turning them into a private security force for copyright and trademark owners.
One way to explain this is you are a landlord of a building and someone wants to open a handbag store in your building. You would be required to vet all the products to be sold and if even one is a knock off not only is the business shut down but the government can change the locks and keep you out of your building.
In this example you might be leery of renting to someone selling hand bags so you don’t.
That is what will happen. Websites that host user created content will either close down or if new might not even start up out of fear of a lawsuit they can’t afford to defend themselves against. Like what happened when some fans tried to show their support for the FOX show “The Simpsons”. In an effort to control their copyright the media companies will go after ANY use of their material even those that fall under fair use rules.
Piracy is wrong but SOPA and Protect IP are bad laws that won’t address the problem and will instead stifle innovations and kill jobs.
If you agree with me on this issue I ask that you contact your Congress person and ask them to vote against these laws.