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SOPA / PROTECT-IP Updates!

There is good news on the SOPA / Pritect IP Acts fronts today.

According to CNet.com, a Senate vote on the Protect-IP Act, which was scheduled for Tuesday has been put on hold.

A statement by Harry Reid reads, in part:

“In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio.

In response to the Senate’s actions, CNet.com, is also reporting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has officially been put on hold by the House of Representatives.

A statement by Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee reads, in part:

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.

“The problem of online piracy is too big to ignore. American intellectual property industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs and account for more than 60 percent of U.S. exports. The theft of America’s intellectual property costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs. Congress cannot stand by and do nothing while American innovators and job creators are under attack.

It is clear that Congress finally heard the voice of the people and the voices of actual companies that are involved with the internet. The question is, however, “how long will they continue to listen?”

On December 29, 2011, Chairman Smith penned an opinion piece on Politico where he not only slammed an article previously written on the subject, but claimed people who were against the bill were ignorant of its provisions:

A recent article, “SOPA is the end of us, say bloggers” (Politico, Dec. 27), ignores the facts and misleads readers. This kind of one-sided reporting lets down readers and brings into question the credibility of Politico as a news source.

Critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act cannot point to any language in the bill to back up their claims. Their concerns are based on speculation and hyperbole, rather than reality. There is no language that would criminalize actions by domestic political bloggers. There is nothing that would require Internet service providers or bloggers to “censor” the Internet.

Since there is no basis for their complaints, one wonders what the bill’s critics are really worried about. Perhaps they don’t want to be held accountable for directing consumers to illegal websites. We know that’s the case with Google.

One only needs to look at section 104 of SOPA to demonstrate the basis of people’s fears:

SEC. 104. IMMUNITY FOR TAKING VOLUNTARY ACTION AGAINST SITES DEDICATED TO THEFT OF U.S. PROPERTY.

No cause of action shall lie in any Federal or State court or administrative agency against, no person may rely in any claim or cause of action against, and no liability for damages to any person shall be granted against, a service provider, payment network provider, Internet advertising service, advertiser, Internet search engine, domain name registry, or domain name registrar for taking any action described in section 102(c)(2), section 103(d)(2), or section 103(b) with respect to an Internet site, or otherwise voluntarily blocking access to or ending financial affiliation with an Internet site, in the reasonable belief that–

(1) the Internet site is a foreign infringing site or is an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property; and

(2) the action is consistent with the entity’s terms of service or other contractual rights.

Sections 102 and 103 deal with court ordered actions in seizing or blocking sites, but section 104 allows a site to be shut down by an ISP if it receives a single complaint the site may be infringing on intellectual property. If the ISP shutters or blocks the site, the owner of the site has no recourse against the ISP.

This means that if an owner of intellectual property contacts and ISP and says “the site you host on your servers has my intellectual property on it,” and the ISP does not shut the site down, they may be liable for legal action by the IP owner. If the ISP shutters or blocks the site, the site owner has no legal recourse.

Bloggers rightfully fear the doctrine of “Fair Use” will go out the window with such a provision that is open to interpretation. In this article alone we have referenced several articles and copied portions of them that currently are considered fair use. However, as SOPA seeks to amend current copyright law, the doctrine of Fair Use may go down the drain.

For example, let’s assume we write a post that is critical of President Obama and quote a portion of a New York Times article. The White House (or an agent for the White House) could call the Times and say “hey…. Raised on Hoecakes has quoted an article of yours in order to attack the President. If you want access to the President in the future, you need to take care of this.”

The Times calls or send a correspondence to my hosting company who, not having the financial resources to fight such a claim of “theft of intellectual property,” shuts this site down.

That, Representative Smith, is the danger.

As we said, Smith basically accused people of not reading the bill. Now it seems the pushback on the issue, including calls to representatives, a massive petition from Google and other places may have caught the Senate and the House’s eyes and ears.

To see just how much of an impact the voice of the people mattered in this case, take a look at this graphic.

Wow.

The scary thing is that SOPA and Protect IP are merely on hold. They have not been defeated. As long as Congress is beholding to organizations like the MPAA and RIAA who make outlandish, unverifiable and discredited claims on the damages of IP theft SOPA and Protect IP will be back in some form.

We simply must remain vigilant.


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