Members of the House and Senate are looking to put the brakes on new Internet anti-piracy legislation that may do more harm than good. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill in the House, and its Senate companion, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), were drawn up to prevent the theft of intellectual property over the web by foreign entities. Both bills have strong backing from Hollywood and other media companies, but there is growing concern that they go too far in enforcing their mandate.
The legislation would give the government unchecked power to shut down domestic websites alleged to have committed or even enabled online piracy. The ability to illegally distribute someone else’s content over the web is a genuine problem, but this legislation would change copyright law so as to hold websites accountable for third-party content posted on their sites through comment forums and the like. Think Facebook or YouTube, and you can understand that these bills are a solution worse than the problem.
In the face of widespread Internet backlash — numerous websites “blacked out” in protest — several senators did an about-face. Sixteen Republicans and two Democrats, including seven co-sponsors, announced new opposition. Even the Obama administration expressed reservations.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a former cosponsor, said there are “legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet.” He urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to “avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.” Reid actually listened and postponed the vote. The House is doing likewise.
For a fascinating “SOPA 101” explanation, go to www. khanacademy.org/video/sopa-and-pipa?playlist=American +Civics.