SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill - InformationWeek
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SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill

Controversial legislation aims to help U.S. authorities clamp down on rogue websites, but critics say it amounts to Internet censorship.

U.S. Rep Lamar Smith (R-Texas), along with 12 co-sponsors, last month introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act, (H.R. 3261). The bill is meant to prevent the theft of intellectual property that's online and in particular seeks to clamp down on foreign websites that steal content from American producers. Critics, however, say the bill amounts to Internet censorship. Here's a look at five key provisions.

1. Many of SOPA's provisions are aimed at foreign websites that stream or otherwise make available copyrighted content, such as movies and music, to U.S. audiences. SOPA allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against such sites to block them, using technical means such as DNS filtering.

2. Online service providers, like ISPs, search engines, ad networks, and payment providers, are required to withhold services to websites that are deemed by a court to be infringing copyrights held by U.S. content producers. Further, ISPs must block U.S. Web users' access to such sites.

3. The bill grants civil claims immunity to Web services providers for any actions they take in order to comply with the terms of the act. In other words, a website that's been blocked by an ISP after being found to be infringing can't turn around and sue the ISP for denial of service or breach of contract.

[App developers say Google isn't doing enough to prevent unauthorized app copying. See Android Survey Highlights Piracy Problem.]

4. SOPA takes specific aim at purveyors of online pharmaceuticals that sell drugs to individuals without a prescription. It authorizes ISPs and other Web services providers to withhold services to such sites, many of which operate from India and Canada.

5. SOPA requires the secretary of state and secretary of commerce to appoint intellectual property attaches to all embassies in foreign countries. Part of the attaches' remit would be to work with local authorities to establish programs to cut down on intellectual property theft.

SOPA isn't without controversy. Backers say its measures are necessary to stop rampant online piracy. "The Internet harbors a category of bad faith actors whose very business models consist of infringing copyrighted American books, software, movies, and music with impunity," said Maria Pallange, national register of copyrights, during House testimony Wednesday.

And Pfizer chief security officer John Clark said passage of the bill is essential to protect U.S. consumers from knockoff drugs that are potentially harmful. "For Pfizer, pharmaceutical counterfeiting is first and foremost an issue of patient health and safety," said Clark.

Critics, however, contend that some SOPA provisions go too far and would chill free speech on the Internet and stifle innovation. "Any government intervention in the online ecosystem that is the Internet can and will have a ripple effect on more than just its bad actors," said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), during testimony.

Companies could abuse such a law "to protect outdated business models by quashing new innovations in their infancy and discouraging less than complimentary speech," said Wyden.

SOPA currently sits in the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet. It has yet to be introduced to the floor for a vote.

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/25/2011 | 5:26:27 PM
re: SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill
Why do you think Google does not like SOPA?
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2011 | 2:05:40 PM
re: SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill
The last such law, I think it was the DMCA, passed in the Clinton administration, had the same justification. The official who herded the bill through eventually renounced it saying that it didn't serve the purpose and was used precisely to protect outdated and dysfunctional business models and practices. The last time it was US companies were able to fill the digital music gap. This time, the more global and comprehensive nature of the law will end up leaving the field to foreign companies and cost the economy billions, if not trillions. It will encourage protectionism in foreign countries by giving them an excuse to "protect" their people from US corporate whatevers.

The worst part of the bill is the failure to demand a quid pro quo from the corporate beneficiaries of the law. For example, drug companies should not be allowed to charge US consumers a price multiple for the same drug that they sell in other developed companies. There need to be provisions for competitiveness and new technology. One person's pirate is another persons competitor. SOPA is store bought legislation that benefits a very limited subset of the population and could likely hurt the economy. We need to protect IP as a precious national resource, it's just that SOPA isn't the way to do it.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2011 | 1:49:09 PM
re: SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill
If the court must consider the same level of evidence that it would have to do if financial compensation were being requested by the plaintiff and if the site is given the opportunity to cease and desist the judged offending offering before any blocking would go into effect this might be reasonable; however, if a simple complaint leads to an injunction blocking the site until a full judgement can be made (which is of, course, possibly "never") you can be sure that companies would abuse this power to a very large and detrimental degree.

Blocking access to a website should be no easier than shutting down a magazine or a newspaper for claims of plagiarism or false advertising or offering illegal access to goods or services.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/18/2011 | 4:36:56 AM
re: SOPA: 5 Key Provisions Of Anti-Piracy Bill
It will do absolutely nothing to stop piracy. All this will do is block sites on the domain level (the whole "www.blahblahblah.blah" part). If you know the IP address of a site (the whole "" thing), there is no blocking that.

Write to your member of congress today to put a stop to this.
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