The Stop Online Piracy Act, otherwise known as SOPA, is being shepherded through Congress by House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), who after amending the bill was able to get a statement in support of it from Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI). But the bill is still being attacked for giving far too much power to copyright holders at the expense of tech providers.
In an opinion piece published by Politico, Smith said, “Critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act cannot point to any language in the bill to back up their claims. Their concerns are based on speculation and hyperbole, rather than reality. There is no language that would criminalize actions by domestic political bloggers. There is nothing that would require Internet service providers or bloggers to ‘censor’ the Internet.”
Regardless of Smith’s opinion, many still find the bill to be onerous – although it targets foreign pirates — and Smith says some of the bill’s detractors may be detracting specifically because they profit from their dealings with the foreign bandits – it is said to give domestic entities and the government the power to shut down domestic sites on accusation of fomenting or enabling piracy.
An article from GigaOM suggests that rights holders are sometimes able to wear down providers whether the providers are not doing anything wrong. It brings up the case of one company against which “lawfare” was waged, and even though the company won the case, it did not survive the cost of litigation. The cost for being innocent was borne by users who lost a service; employees who lost jobs; and investors, who lost the entire company.
Some in the broadcasting business are worried that the same fate could befall stations if a copyright holder objects to content found on a station website.
GigaOM suggests that if the more onerous penalties contained in SOPA are approved, there should be a counterbalancing penalty paid by rights holders who make accusations that prove false. If they are held accountable not just for court costs, but for loss of income and investment from the employees and owners of a service, then they will likely think long and hard before bringing action against a service.
As usual in Washington, the issue is extremely complicated. Intellectual property certainly applies to artistic content – movies, television programs, music – but it also applies to other intellectual property. In his OpEd, Smith referred to sites that allow people to purchase and import drugs into the US from foreign providers.