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SOPA and PIPA News

Two major pieces of legislation are making their way through the US Congress; the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate. While each may sound prudent on the surface, the danger that lurks in the bowels of the law’s content could dramatically hinder the free commerce we currently enjoy on the Internet.

Consider this from  writing in

…SOPA and PIPA are bad laws. If enacted, a copyright holder could, legally have foreign Web sites shut down by simply accusing them of violating their copyright. These sites would then, from an American perspective, simply vanish. How broad is this? According to Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and author id American Constitutional Law, SOPA is unconstitutional because, “an entire Web site containing tens of thousands of pages could be targeted if only a single page were accused of infringement.”

Tribe also states that it SOPA violates the First Amendment because “it delegates to a private party the power to suppress speech without prior notice and a judicial hearing. This provision of the bill would give complaining parties the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice accusing the site of being ‘dedicated to theft of U.S. property’- -even if no court has actually found any infringement.”

If SOPA, or its Senate twin-brother, PIPA, were made law, it would also require ISPs to monitor customers’ traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.

Therefore, Tribe concludes, “Although the problems of online copyright and trademark infringement are genuine, SOPA is an extreme measure that is not narrowly tailored to governmental interests. It is a blunderbuss rather than a properly limited response, and its stiff penalties would significantly endanger legitimate websites and services. Its constitutional defects are not marginal ones that could readily be trimmed in the process of applying and enforcing it in particular cases. Rather, its very existence would dramatically chill protected speech by undermining the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. It should not be enacted by Congress.”

Besides simply shutting down Web sites on demand, SOPA would, as Reddit put it in its Blackout Special Edition (PDF Link) “Under SOPA, you could get 5 years for uploading a Michael Jackson song, one year more than the doctor who killed him.”

But, those of you who’ve been following the issue, hasn’t SOPA been stopped? Yes, SOPA appears to be dead in the water in the House. But, acts can reappear in the House and PIPA is alive and well in the Senate. As Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder and leader tweeted, “Rumors of the death of SOPA may be premature. But Senate version going strong.”

Should our rights be eradicated to avoid “impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits”? I think not.