People all over the world are just waking up to the new anti-piracy bills – SOPA and PIPA. Whether these bills would actually reduce copyright infringement is not a 100% clear but there certainly a high potential for collateral damage if it is passed.
“It’s not a battle of left versus right,” said progressive activist Adam Green, whose organization Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday hosted a press conference with opponents of the bills. “Frankly, it’s a battle of old versus new.”
So Why no to SOPA, PIPA?
- Collateral damage 1: False Litigation – people who are opposing SOPA and PIPA believe that neither piece of legislation would do enough to protect against false accusations. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation argues, provisions in the bill grant immunity to payment processors and ad networks that cut off sites based on a reasonable belief of infringement, so even if claims turn out to be false, only the site suffers. “The standard for immunity is incredibly low and the potential for abuse is off the charts.”
- Collateral Damage 2: Meanwhile, sites that host user-generated content will be under pressure to closely monitor users’ behavior. That monitoring already happens on larger sites such as YouTube, but it could be a huge liability for startups, the EFF argues.
- Collateral Damage 3: Brad Burnham, managing partner at the venture capital fund Union Square Ventures, said his company has avoided investing in companies related to the music industry because of the copyright risks – but under the proposed legislation, that risk would hit just about any Internet company. SOPA and PIPA, he said, “takes the risk of frivolous litigation… to the entire Internet.”
That should be a concern, Burnham said, when the Internet accounts for 21 percent of economic growth among developed nations, according to one study.
- Collateral Damage 4: The impacts could go beyond the economy, some argue. Rebecca MacKinnon, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, argues that if blogging platforms are motivated to monitor their content that could have “a tremendous chilling effect on people trying to conduct political discourse and trying to use content in a fair use context.”
- Collateral damage 5: Last Wednesday in the financial magazine Forbes, E.D. Kane summarily described SOPA and PIPA “the greatest threat to a free internet we’ve seen from the US government yet,” adding that the legislation represented a blatant attack on “the last unregulated bastion of free commerce in the world.”
- Collateral Damage 6: Last week, New York Times columnist David Carr—himself a proponent of anti-piracy laws—commented that SOPA and PIPA, in their current forms would be ineffective in dealing with rogue websites and would entail significant “collateral damage” in terms of stifling innovation and attenuating free speech.
Where does the situation stand?
SOPA and PIPA both are in troubled waters now as their authors have taken the decision to remove the provisions that require Internet service providers to block the domain names of infringing sites. SOPA, which has yet to pass out of the House Judiciary Committee, is reportedly stalled, as lawmakers continue to work on the bill. However, Representative Darrell Issa (R-California) has proposed an alternative bill that is much narrower in its focus.
Voting on PIPA, however, is scheduled to begin in the Senate on January 24.
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