SOPA, introduced in the House in October as H.R. 3261, is due for a mark-up this week by the 39 member House Judiciary Committee, which oversees revisions to copyright law. The bill, authored by the House Judiciary Committee’s Chairman with the support of the Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America, would permit the Attorney General and copyright holders to seek court ordered penalties against non-U.S. websites that are accused of enabling copyright infringement. The penalties are unprecedented: U.S. internet service providers, search engines, advertising networks, and payment processors would be banned from doing business with the allegedly infringing websites or linking to any part of the website, even if only a single webpage was accused of infringement.
Directly threatened by SOPA are websites with user-generated content, including the usual suspects: Flickr, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Consumer interest groups, civil rights organizations, scholars, and others, are questioning whether SOPA undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which already provides for a system of notice and take-down and has been subject to judicial interpretation for almost a decade. Others have questioned whether, if enacted, SOPA would simply prompt cloud based and web hosting services to move abroad. Constitutional law experts argue that SOPA chills protected speech under the First Amendment.
A draft document was circulated last week by a group of senators and representatives in opposition to SOPA. The SOPA-opponents cite the International Trade Commission (ITC) as a more desirable enforcement route and outline a process by which U.S. copyright holders could file an ITC complaint, seek an investigation, and a request a cease and desist order to be issued against allegedly infringing foreign sites. ITC jurisdiction would flow from the assumption that “Downloading a movie from a foreign-registered site, for example, is much like importing a good from a foreign company.” It is unclear how the proposal would affect infringing content that is streamed or viewed, but not “imported” as a download might be. The proposal hints that SOPA might lead to destablizing outcomes if “magistrate judges not versed in Internet and trade policy” were to inconsistently apply it without taking all parties’ interests into account.
Posted by Urmika Devi
@ December 12, 2011 06:09 PM EST