Yesterday was a significant day in internet history. It is the day that the House Judiciary Committee met to debate changes to The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as H.R.3261. The bill allows U.S. copyright holders to fight online trafficking of intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
Now, as a digital publisher that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. We’ve complained here on MomCrunch about scraping and other practices by unscrupulous webmasters that undermine and devalue what we do as legitimate content producers.
But industry leaders are up in arms about SOPA. Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, spoke out against the bill, saying “The bill attempts a radical restructuring of the laws governing the Internet,” that “It would undo the legal safe harbors that have allowed a world-leading Internet industry to flourish over the last decade. It would expose legitimate American businesses and innovators to broad and open-ended liability.”
As it is written, SOPA gives corporate and individual copyright holders can seek legal action against websites accused of enabling copyright infringement. With a judge’s signature, ad networks and payment facilitators like PayPal can be prohibited from doing business with these “blacklisted” sites, search engines would be barred from linking to such sites, and service providers would be forced to block access to the sites.
Prominent internet investors and engineers posted an open letter to Congress on Thursday. But supporters of the bill also made their voice heard with full-page ads in the Washington Post. And of course, the web itself is amuck with everyone’s two cents. As of my bedtime last night, I still couldn’t find an outcome.
I’m curious, MomCrunch readers… what do you think about SOPA? Is it a threat to free speech? Or a threat to pirates?
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