During the waning days of the 2008 presidential race, there was an important but overlooked occurrence on the John McCain campaign. In mid-October, the McCain campaign awoke to find that its Web videos and online advertisements were disappearing from its YouTube page.
The culprit turned out to be a major television network claiming they owned portions of the videos and that posting the clips was a violation of copyright law. Even though the campaign, and many others in the online community, believed the content to be privileged under the “Fair Use Doctrine,” the videos were pulled down.
Fast-forward more than three years, and a new piece of legislation is making its way through Congress that would make it easier for online campaign content and websites to be taken down. Even more concerning, if passed, this bill would allow opposing campaigns or campaign committees — not just the original content provider — to pull down websites harboring “infringing content.”
Here’s a plausible campaign scenario under SOPA. Imagine you are running for Congress in a competitive House district. You give a strong interview to a local morning news show and your campaign posts the clip on your website. When your opponent’s campaign sees the video, it decides to play hardball and sends a notice to your Internet service provider alerting them to what it deems “infringing content.” It doesn’t matter if the content is actually pirated. The ISP has five days to pull down your website and the offending clip or be sued. If you don’t take the video down, even if you believe that the content is protected under fair use, your website goes dark.
Tue 20 Dec 2011 09:02:11 AM UTC — annaleena
Only a week ago we were happy about winning the lawsuit in Florida, and praised the courts in the US for favoring the freedom of speech. And now comes the SOPA.
SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives in October, and has awakened heated debate in the press since. The objective of the bill is to weed out piracy on the web, but the way it does it, is more than questionable. This is how Wikipedia explains it:
The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who requests the court orders, the actions could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites.
In practice, if the SOPA gets passed, any website operator could get blocked from ad revenue, search traffic, and web traffic in the US, if it was found to enable or facilitate copyright infringement. It doesn’t take much to do that: a few infringing links could get the whole site blocked.
Sites hosting user-generated content, such as WOT, would be at a great risk. SOPA would force them to police their users’ behavior and filter content, a task that in many cases is impossible. For example reddit, the popular social news site, has stated that SOPA would mean its end.
Even worse than losing reddit and many other wonderful sites, is what SOPA could do to the whole online ecosystem: fewer startups entering due to the legal risks, and censorship becoming the new standard for the whole web. Is that the path we want to take?
Dear community members in the US. Please contact your representatives, and ask them to oppose the SOPA. Piracy is to be fought against, but this is not the way.
Check this infographic for more information of the effects of SOPA.