IS SOPA DEAD?
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a U.S. House bill to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods initiated by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (Republican). Provisions include the requesting of court-orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers (ISP) to block access to the sites. The bill would also allow harsher action to be taken against illegal streaming of copyrighted content, reinforcing the established maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign owned and operated sites, and citing examples of “active promotion of rogue websites” by U.S. search engines, proponents say stronger enforcement tools are needed.
Opponents say the proposed legislation threatens free speech, innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage. On January 14, 2012, the Obama administration responded to a petition against the bill, stating that while it would not support legislation with provisions that could lead to Internet censorship, squelching of innovation, or reduced Internet security, it encouraged “all sides to work together to pass sound legislation this year that provides prosecutors and rights holders new legal tools to combat online piracy originating beyond U.S. borders while staying true to the principles outlined above in this response.”
Caving to a massive campaign by Internet services and their millions of users, Congress indefinitely postponed legislation Friday to stop online piracy of movies and music costing U.S. companies billions of dollars every year. Critics said the bills would result in censorship and stifle Internet innovation. The demise, at least for the time being, of the anti-piracy bills was a clear victory for Silicon Valley over Hollywood, which has campaigned for a tougher response to online piracy. On January 18, the English Wikipedia, Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other websites coordinated a service blackout or posted links and images in protest against SOPA and the Senate bill, the Protect IP Act, or PIPA, in an effort to raise awareness. In excess of 160 million people saw Wikipedia’s banner. A number of other protest actions were organized, including petition drives, Google collecting over 7 million signatures, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and a rally held in New York City.
The battle over the future of the Internet also played out on a different front Thursday when a loose affiliation of hackers known as “Anonymous” shut down Justice Department websites for several hours and hacked the site of the Motion Picture Association of America after federal officials issued an indictment against Megaupload.com, one of the world’s biggest file-sharing sites. Twenty-four hours later the shut down by the FBI, the site Megaupload is again on line in a new IP address: http://188.8.131.52/
FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights. The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
FOR A INTERNET FREE. THE STRUGGLE GOES ON.