The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) introduced in October has been delayed until sometime in 2012. SOPA’s goal is to aid with the ongoing dilemma of copyright infringement, pirating, and/or the counterfeiting of intellectual property many US based media companies are facing by foreign and some domestic websites.
The scheme behind SOPA is to disable or withhold services from infringing sites by requiring Internet search providers, payment processors and other Internet related entities to deny services.
Support for the legislation is coming from media organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) while tech industry giants such as Google, Yahoo, and Facebook to name a few are opposed to the bill.
The tech industry feels protecting content is a worthy goal and should be pursued, but fears the content within the bill can lead to unintended consequences. For example, copyright holders would be able to find fault on a website, contact law enforcement officials, and get websites shut down or denied services. Furthermore, tech companies such as Google could face punishment if a pirated TV show is uploaded to YouTube.
SOPA is a change from the current process based on the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which expect companies to “act in good faith” when a copyright holder asks them to remove pirated content. However, under SOPA, sites could be punished first place and Internet companies are worried that they could be held liable for users’ actions.
While the media industry states online piracy websites such as The Pirate Bay which operates outside of the U.S. allows illegal downloads of movies, music and other digital content leads to U.S. job losses by depriving content creators income.
A similar bill to SOPA titled the Protect IP Act, was approved by a Senate committee in May of 2011, and is now pending before the full Senate. In addition, a bipartisan group of House members has proposed an alternative bill titled the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN).
Even though both the media organizations and tech companies have suitable reasoning for supporting and opposing the bill, I think the tech industry and small bloggers and media organizations are at the most risk if this bill where to past. If a media organization accuses them of using their content in an inappropriate manner, request for that site to be denied of service, many of them do not have the resources for legal services to rectify the matter, thus allowing the media industry full power.