Congress is holding hearings today on something called the Stop Online Piracy Act and if you haven’t heard of it yet, don’t worry, you’re going to hear a lot more about it in the coming weeks and months. If it passes it will change your life forever, by destroying the internet.
You can read the entire bill as proposed right here, but in short if it passes it would make it nearly impossible for most websites, particularly independently owned sites without teams of lawyers and social sites which permit user generated content, to operate. It gives unprecedented power to copyright holders to essentially shut down the operation of any website they want, on a whim. It does this by eliminating the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Those provisions protect website owners who act in good faith to comply with established copyright standards.
EFF has a great description of just exactly how this would kill pretty much any independent website. Here’s an excerpt from their breakdown:
If an IP rightsholder thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors and ad services you rely on. Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court.
In essence, if a corporation’s attorney sees something, anything on your website he doesn’t like, he’d have the legal right to shut your website down whether you’re guilty or not. In the past what happened instead was that the copyright holder would send a DMCA claim, which then gave the website owner time to remove whatever potentially infringing content was found on their site.
Speaking from experience, the truth is that even now a large percent of the DMCA claims sent out are actually bogus. We’ve gotten some of that type ourselves here on Cinema Blend, notices claiming copyright infringement when there was none, notices which were actually just some over-eager corporate attorney trying to use legal scare tactics in an attempt to limit our right to free speech. Now those attorneys won’t need to use scare tactics, they’ll simply pull the plug, whenever they feel like it. Guilty until proven innocent.
Unlike a lot of the more extreme and ridiculous internet censorship legislation which has run through the United States Congress over the years, by all accounts this one has a very real chance of passing. This in spite of the fact that dozens of law professors have pronounced the entire bill unconstitutional. But governments and corporations want control over what you're allowed to say, and they still haven’t found a way to get a real stranglehold over the internet. If SOPA passes, they’ll get it. If it goes through, many of the sites you visit now, even sites like Facebook and Tumblr, will no longer be able to exist. The only way to stop it, is to take action.
Get more information and join the protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act by visiting AmericanCensorship.org. Better yet, write your local representative and let them know that you oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act.