With the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, Congress is preparing to destroy the web, or perhaps this is just another battle between the content industry and the web world being fought in the legislature. However this is categorized, the technology industry has unified against this issue in a way that I have not seen before — even during the network neutrality debates.
For those wondering what the hubbub is about or perhaps why their Tumblr blog is blacked out, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good explanation here, here and here. In short, there are two resolutions wending their way through the House and Senate that aim to stop online piracy by blocking or changing the DNS entry for sites that willfully infringe on copyright. It also puts the responsibility on hosting providers, search engines and even payments companies to take part in stopping infringing material.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the issue with five people representing the content industry and one from Google. The web was in overdrive over the preceding 24 hours, registering opinions, statements and speculations about the proposed law. We have gathered a sample from various sources to help readers get a feel for the comments out there and see the big picture. Happy reading.
“A Question For SOPA Supporters: How Will You Gauge SOPA’s Success?” (Techdirt)
If the intention of this legislation is to provide enforcement for copyright, my belief is that there should be some sort of metric or guideline to gauge its success. Without some sort of measurement in place, the very real possibility is that the enforcement efforts will continue to expand in scope and cause more and more collateral damage.
So, in all honesty, I’d like to open this thread to supporters of SOPA. I’d like to know how you’d measure the success of this legislation.
“Are SOPA sponsors about to make themselves felons? Probably not.” (Ars Technica)
Whatever else you might say about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it has been litigated to death, and that has given websites a pretty clear idea of what they need to do to qualify for its safe harbor. The Stop Online Piracy Act would upset the apple cart by exposing websites to new legal risks based on poorly defined concepts like ‘sites dedicated to theft of US property.’
“Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists Say They Will Stop Funding Some Internet Start-Up Business Models if Tough New Rules Are Enacted” (Booz & Co.)
More than 80 percent of the angel investors would prefer to invest in a risky, weak economy (with the current internet regulations) vs. a strong economy (but with the new, more stringent proposed regulations on copyright infringement). But, if the legal framework for digital content was clarified, and penalties on copyright infringement were limited for content providers acting in good faith, the pool of angels interested in investing would increase by nearly 115 percent.
“Chief Sponsor Wavers on Internet Censorship Bill in Charged Hearing” (Wired)
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), one the chief sponsors of the bill, expressed uncertainty over allowing the Justice Department to obtain court orders demanding that American ISPs prevent users from visiting blacklisted websites. ISPs receiving such orders would have to alter records in the net’s system for looking up website names, known as DNS.
The House bill also allows the Justice Department to order search sites like Google to remove an allegedly ‘rogue’ site from its search results.
“Piracy legislation battle heats up” (Variety)
Lobbying over the legislation has been fierce. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, showbiz has spent $91.8 million on lobbying for all issues this year, compared to $91.5 million by computer and Internet firms. The figures were as of the end of October.
“Issa: Congress using Google as ‘piñata’” (The Hill)
Issa said lawmakers are beginning to realize they can’t just blame Google for the problem of online piracy, and predicted legislation opposed by Silicon Valley giants including Google, Facebook and eBay is doomed because Republican leaders will realize the damage it would do to the knowledge-based economy.