For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

Two of our regular Kats are currently on blogging sabbaticals. They are David Brophy and Catherine Lee.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Catching up with SOPA (and Hello, IPKat Readers!)

Greetings, readers! I greatly appreciate IPKat's invitation to come and guest blog for the first half of 2012. I hope to show that the gracious invitation was well-bestowed, and I look forward to lively (but polite) discussions with many of you on U.S. IP issues.

On the eve of the day that some of the most important websites in the United States (Google and Wikipedia, for starters) demonstrate their opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act that is lurching its way through the halls of Congress, this guest Kat thought it would be apropos to use her debut blog on this illustrious site to guide readers through the twisted course that this bill has taken so far. (If you only read English, you can’t look at Wikipedia today anyway, so you might as well spend your time with us). IP Kat has posted on its views on the responses to SOPA recently - I hope to just give you a few more bits into the background).

This bill, known as SOPA for short in the U.S., is rooted in the now 13 year-old battle being waged by the "content industry," Hollywood and the record labels in particular, to curb the infringement of copyright online. SOPA focuses on preventing U.S. citizens from accessing “foreign infringing sites” and downloading copyrighted content coming from overseas (There is also support from the pharmaceutical and medical industries, as the bill is also meant to curb the sale of counterfeit drugs from foreign countries to American patients). The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives late last year. (A similar bill is in the U.S. Senate known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) - we shall discuss it later as it moves more to the forefront).

In its original form, SOPA would have allowed the U.S. Attorney General to file in rem lawsuits against foreign sites (sites not registered with a U.S. registrar) to block access to sites or portions of sites that infringed copyright. “Blocking Access” meant going to Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! and enforcing a court order against them to have the infringing sites removed from the search index. THe order could have been further enforced against Internet Service Providers who would have had to prevent the domain name of the site from resolving to the web site. Sites who supported payment to infringing sites or advertised or sold advertising on the infringing sites could also be stopped, initially under a DMCA-like “notice and takedown” regime that could be initiated by private plaintiffs.

The backlash was swift and loud. The internet guys were sure that SOPA would break the internet, or at least reduce it to a shadow of its formal self. Steve Crocker (current head of ICANN) gave dire predictions about the effects on internet security. Google didn't like it. (Search the Twitter Feed for #STOPSOPA for more).

The backlash was also effective, and a few weeks ago, SOPA began to break down. The private right of action disappeared first, then the part about severing domain names from websites that so many feared would have broken the internet. Soon after, an amendment was offered that would let the search engines off the hook completely. (Google, presumably, feels better now.) Barely more than 24 hours later, with a strong message sounding from the White House sounding the background, the bill was shelved until there was “Consensus” in Congress, which everyone who knows anything about Congress reasonably believed meant until the fulfillment of the prophecies. But that was three whole days ago, and today we learned that Consensus may come in February, or at least that will be when Congress takes SOPA down from the shelf and starts marking it up again.

A more specific discussion of the language is probably moot today, and will be obsolete tomorrow at this rate, but this Kat promises to keep up and keep our dear readers in the loop.

Now that the background has been laid, and before the marking up begins, a bit of editorial about the rhetoric coming from all sides of the SOPA issue may be required. Your indulgence will be appreciated at next post.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Against the Stop Online Piracy Act

http://www.webpetitions.com/petition/stop-sopa-and-pipa-a-campaign-for-freedom/8619

Anand said...

US congress trying to change the meaning of internet which is against the vision of the founder of internet. I believe the basic idea of internet is to share ideas and thoughts without any Restrictions. "Please Do not try to impose a threat to this ocean of knowledge"

Media Mentions said...

I’m sure you’ve heard the details of Wikipedia’s blackout in protest of Internet censorship (SOPA and PIPA in particular), but if you haven’t, here’s an article that I read today which summarizes everything perfectly: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=HAIXJA7GW5U4&preview=article&linkid=f8d9fb9e-2af4-4b3c-acd1-89ecd53d0d67&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d Cheers!

Maxine Horn said...

Internet users need to understand the difference between free to access & view as distinct from free to download, copy, re-mix, re-use others copyright works.
The internet is a great resource for information and shared knowledge open and available to all people regardless of education and wealth.

Any Creator is at liberty to make their work available for free if it suits them - as much as any Creator whose usage of work requires permission, licensing or other form of remuneration has the right to that decision.

If the SOPA act is purely designed to make it the responsibility of ISP's and search engines to block pirate sites and copyright infringers that can only be a good thing as it prevents stealing from others - and stealing is not a good thing.

Both Creative Commons and Creative Barcode have sought to provide means for Creators to address copyright and innovation concept protection as well as communicate to internet users what is available for free and what requires permission for use or purchase.

Internet users arguing against SOPA on the basis that it restricts freedom and causes censorship predominently do so because they want access and use of Creators work for free for their own enjoyment and benefit. What gives them that right?

Do they apply the same rules to their own area of work where whatever expertise, products or services they or the business that employees them sells, is also available for free? l doubt it.

So why do they have such difficulty understanding that Creators works should not be considered 'free' or free to use without agreement just because the Creator makes works available to purchase on the internet or uses their work examples to market their skills to businesses to seek new business commissions?

It's not so much about censorship as it is about respect for the value of others work. Don't steal - ask permission to use or purchase, or in the case of published material, don't plagiarise but credit the source of the knowledge.

What's difficult about that? One wouldn't walk into a shop and walk out with a CD without paying for it or any other product without being arrested for shoplifting.

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