Jan 18 2012, 12:00
We haven't really talked about this here but with Wikipedia going dark and as many 7,000 other sites including Google, Twitpic, WordPress, BoingBoing, Reddit and Minecraft either going dark or marking the event in some form in protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act now seems like as good a time as any to bring them up. For those who are unaware of what the bills are:
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the anti-piracy bill being put together in the House of Representatives in the US whilst the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) is the Senate's anti-piracy bill. Both bills have major backing from the film industry, music industry and publishers amongst others whilst the likes of Google, Wikipedia, AOL and Facebook are all opposed to them. In short this is one of the few times when there are huge sums of money and rather powerful organisations on both sides of the debate. The bills themselves propose the following
-Anyone found guilty of illegally streaming copyrighted content 10 or more times in the space of 6 months would face up to 5 years in jail
-The US Government and rights holders would be able to obtain court orders to shut down a site that is seen as enabling or facilitating piracy
-It would be illegal for US based providers, advertisers and payment processors to do business with alleged copyright infringers.
-SOPA includes a provision that would force search engines to remove offending sites from their results
-It would be illegal for a site to contain information on how to access blocked websites
-Immunity is offered to ISP's that block access to sites if they have 'credible evidence' the page contains unsanctioned material.
Until recently both bills also demanded that providers block suspect sites using DSN blocking a process used in China and Iran to make certain sites 'disappear'. This provision however as subsequently been removed from both bills not because those involved were uncomfortable with that comparison but because there were informed that doing this could disrupt the internet's underlying architecture.
As of right now it is unclear when or if SOPA will reach a vote in the House of Representatives although PIPA is expected to be put to a vote in the Senate by the end of January.
Jan 18 2012, 14:56
I don't think today's protest will have any effect, tbh, but when the law is inevitably passed I can't see how extra judicial sanctions are not unconstitutional so there's every chance the Supreme Court my strike it off.
Jan 18 2012, 22:33
Jan 18 2012, 23:03
If nothing else today's protests certainly seemed to have raised awareness of the issue whether that'll actually lead to any significant change in thinking on either side seems unclear. I won't be holding my breath though obviously.
What I find quite interesting about the issue of piracy as a whole is that, broadly speaking, the public at large should probably feel some sense of sympathy or support for the entertainment industry over illegal downloads and yet they really don't seem to and the only real explanation for that is how staggeringly badly the industry has handled the whole thing.
Jan 20 2012, 15:08
Its all kicking off now.
Last week the White House finally released a statement on SOPA and PIPA in which it was made clear that whilst President Obama believed there was a need to look at anti-piracy legislation he did not support either of the bills currently being discussed. At the time this was viewed as a fairly benign and middle of the road statement from a President trying to keep both sides of the debate (who were both huge contributors to his last campaign) relatively happy or as happy as they could be. However things took on a slightly different tone when Chris Dodd, the lobbyist currently heading the MPAA, gave an interview to Fox in which he not only threatened that 'Hollywood' would stop donating to Obama for his lack of support for the bill but that they'd carry that policy over to others to:
Candidly, those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake ... Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.
Then it what might very well be the 600th Republican debate of this primary race a question was asked regarding their position on SOPA with only Rick Santorum seeming to have anything close to support for it. Gingrich in particular was pretty dismissive of the whole thing although that seemed to be down entirely to the fact that the bill would protect the 'liberal media' more than anything else.
And now (possibly as an attempt to demonstrate that there's no need for these bills) the US Justice Department has set its sights on MegaUpload filing what it describes as one of the largest criminal copyright cases in US history. This attack on MegaUpload and the MPAA's gleeful response to it has not gone unnoticed though with 'hacktivist' group Anonymous seemingly crashing the Justice Department, MPAA and Universal Music websites in protest. Earlier in all of these they published personal contact details for various executives at some of the big entertainment companies who support the bills to allow people to protest directly to them.
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