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[ISN] The US Stop Online Piracy Act: A primer
By Grant Gross
IDG News Service
November 16, 2011
The Stop Online Piracy Act, the subject of a hearing before the U.S.
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Wednesday, has generated
heated debate since lawmakers introduced it on Oct. 26.
The bill, called SOPA, would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and
copyright holders to seek court orders requiring online advertising
networks, payment processors and other organizations to stop payments to
websites and Web-based services accused of copyright infringement.
Supporters of SOPA argue that U.S. law enforcement officials need new
tools to fight websites, particularly foreign sites, that sell
infringing products, including music, movies, clothing and medicine.
Some infringing products are dangerous; others cost U.S. companies
billions of dollars a year, supporters say.
Current copyright enforcement laws in the U.S. have little effect on
hundreds of foreign websites that sell counterfeit products or pirated
music and movies, SOPA supporters say. While U.S. law enforcement
officials can shut down infringing sites in the U.S., they generally
can't reach foreign sites, supporters say.
"The sale of counterfeit products and piracy of copyrighted content
online not only undermines our nation's economy [but also] robs state
and local governments of much-needed tax revenue and jobs," Washington
state Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a statement released
Wednesday. "Even worse, some counterfeit goods can pose serious health
and safety hazards to consumers. Rogue sites legislation seeks to clamp
down on this scourge."
Opponents of the bill argue it would empower litigious copyright holders
to seek court orders targeting many legitimate websites, including sites
with user-generated content such as Twitter and YouTube. The legislation
would overturn the notice-and-takedown process in the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, and would slow U.S. technology innovation, with new
Web-based services likely targeted by copyright holders, critics say.
SOPA would lead to censorship of legitimate websites and protected free
speech on sites that may contain some infringing content, critics say.
The bill is inconsistent with the U.S. Department of State's push for
Internet freedom worldwide, they say.
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