SOPA/PIPA Bills Cause Internet Protest, Petitions
Google Inc. on Friday released the information that it had collected seven million signatures in the United States for its petition related to its internet protest against the SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy legislation the American Congress is preparing with the endorsement of the Hollywood and the music industry.
The Google campaign was called “Tell the Congress: Don’t censor the Web!” and addresses the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which has been debated in the House for months, and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which is on the Senate’s floor, placed on hold for the moment.
Protesters say that these acts would in fact promote online censorship, disrupt the Web’s architecture and oppose innovation on the Web. Hollywood, the entire music and movies industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce back the acts and demand that the piracy of websites outside the United States be stopped.
Wikipedia shut the English version down on Wednesday as a means to protest the bills. The encyclopedia was closed for 24 hours, and the blackout was viewed by 162 million people, causing 8 million of them to contact their representative in America through the blackout page to demand them to vote against the bills.
The protest on the websites caused 13 lawmakers, who had initially backed the bill, to withdraw their support for it. The protests seem to weaken the support for these two bills.
Many people heard about the bills via the websites that went into blackout on Wednesday: Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and WordPress.
The bills are intended to grant the Justice Department the power to order “information location” services to remove the links to websites that are being suspected of piracy. The proponents of the law say that the bills are intended to protect American intellectual property and protect consumers against counterfeit goods.
The Protect Intellectual Property Act, also known as Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or as Senate Bill 968 is a bill which intends to offer the government and the copyright holders the right to curb “rogue websites intended to infringing or counterfeit goods,” especially of those registered outside the United States.
The bill was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, and another eleven co-sponsors. The implementation of the bill is expected to cost the American budget $47 million. The bill passed the Senate, but it was placed on hold by Senator Ron Wyden. The vote on it was postponed indefinitely.
The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bill proposed by Republican Representative Lamar S. Smith, and is intended to expand the ability of the United States law enforcement agencies to fight online trafficking in intellectual property which are under copyright and the counterfeit goods. The provisions also refer to the fact that after receiving a court order, the law enforcement agencies may fight advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with websites that infringe the copyright. The maximum penalty for the crimes that fall under this law would be of five years.
The bill has two steps the rights holders can take in order to protect their intellectual propriety: the first step is to notify in writing the payment facilitator and ad networks about the identity of the website that has infringed their rights.
The payment facilitators and ad networks must forward the notification and suspend services to the website, unless it offers a counter notification by which it explains why it is not infringing copyrights.
In case such a counter notification is provided, or if the facilitator fails to suspend services, the rights holder can move to the second step, that of suing against the site operator.
Those who advocate the law say that it would enhance protection against rogue websites that infringe the rights of intellectual property in the United States, especially foreign websites, and would protect the musical and movies industry.
The protesters against the law consider it an infringement of the freedom of speech and innovation, and a means to block entire internet domains because one single website has committed an infringement of the copyright. Library associations have voiced concern that they would be exposed to prosecution.
There are people who think that even blogs and bloggers can be affected by these laws, as the bloggers would be made responsible for all contents of their sites, including the comments of the visitors.
Thus, companies can sue blogs for mere posting their logos on sites, even though the author has placed them there as teaching methods, critique or good design praise.
A violation of the First Amendment is considered the demand made by the law enforcement agencies, in case the bills became laws, that search engines delete a domain name. Such a provision would lead to an escalation of the Web censorship.
Under the bill, websites like Etsy, Flickr and Vimeo will be shut down, if the bill is passed and signed into law. Website developers will no longer have a place on the internet, some say, and websites like Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube could become targets of the law enforcement agencies as places on which piracy can occur.11