The largest online protest in history takes place today, January 18th, in opposition of two pieces of legislation: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). As with all pieces of legislation, it’s a word maze of legalese and jargon that is neither easy to read, nor understand by the layman. Today, we’ve tried to outline some of the main points, common criticisms, and offer you a few outlets to do some further reading on SOPA, PIPA, and the strike.
In principal, the idea of ending online piracy, including the distribution of unauthorized songs, videos, and images is not only sensible, but necessary in order to protect the artists and records labels’ rights and to ensure the future of the music industry. However, many argue that SOPA and PIPA would lead to an unprecedented form of censorship and effectively “end the Web as we know it.”
Introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, SOPA would allow copyright holders — such as record labels or movie studios — to demand search engines and ad networks to blacklist infringing websites “without a single court appearance or judicial sign-off. All it takes is a single letter claiming a ‘good faith belief’ that its target site has infringed on its content. Once Google or PayPal or whoever receives the quarantine notice, they have five days to either abide or to challenge the claim in court,” reports Gizmodo.
Gizmodo also adds that payment processors or content providers like Visa or YouTube would be given “broad immunity” for proactively blacklisting infringing sites. In addition, individuals who detail ways to circumvent SOPA and access blacklisted websites — such as posting on their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds — could be subject to prosecution. An infograph detailing the full scope of ramifications relating to SOPA is linked below.
An earlier provision included in SOPA requiring Internet Service Providers (Verizon, Comcast, AT&T) to block and and redirect infringing domain names (DNS) has since been removed.
Considered the “sister bill” of SOPA, PIPA was introduced by the Senator Patrick Leahy and includes a large amount of the same language and provisions.
In a letter sent to Congress in November 2011, a collective of Internet giants including Google, Twitter, Facebook, and AOL said that the two bills “would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites.”
The letter continues:
“We are very concerned that the bills as written would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide a safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites. Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCAs safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industrys growth and success. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign ‘rogue’ sites, we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss and share information lawfully online.
Last weekend, the White House announced that it would not support either SOPA or PIPA. “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” the statement read in part.
The White House added that “online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy” and that 2012 should see the passage of narrower legislation that targets the source of foreign copyright infringement, according to The Huffington Post.
Shortly afterward, Congressional supporters of SOPA all but shelved the legislation, announcing that there would be no vote until a consensus is found, reports The Hill. However, Congressman Smith has already scheduled a markup session for SOPA in February. PIPA has a scheduled vote in the Senate for January 24th.
In light of the news, many Internet companies are using today to raise awareness of the legislation. Websites like Wikipedia and Reddit are going completely dark, while others including Google have posted links pointing to information about SOPA, PIPA, and their potential consequences.
Consequence of Sound maintains a strict policy when it comes to copyrighted material and attempts to post only audio, video, and images that have been previously cleared by the artist and/or record label. We ask that you spend a few moments today reading the websites linked below.
— Information on H.R.3261 – Stop Online Piracy Act
— Information on S.968 – Protect IP Act