Internet giants join forces to stop SOPA

Legislation which appeases the movie industry and threatens to damage innovation on the net
Kerry Butters

November 18, 2011

Some of the biggest names on the internet have banded together to voice their concerns over the new bill currently being discussed in US congress, “SOPA”.

SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, which is designed (fairly obviously) to allow tougher measures to be implemented against sites who allow illegal downloads and unlicensed streaming video services.

Internet companies such as Google, Ebay, Mozilla, Facebook, Yahoo and Twitter have written a letter to congress expressing their concerns with what appears to be an attempt to push a flawed bill through in order to keep the movie conglomerates happy.

According to one report, the bills that the US congress are desperate to push through are written by the content industry with little input from those in the technology industry.

Whilst everyone agrees that piracy is a crime, the reality of the matter is that the technology industry has made inroads into fighting the problem.

Technology such as DRM and online streaming services such as Netflix have already reduced piracy over the course of the past ten years.

The problem seems to be that these measures are just not enough for the content industry and they seem unwilling to introduce their own solutions beyond strong-arming tactics which hide behind the law.

In the letter to congress, internet companies point out that whilst they support the idea of additional tools to combat the problem, the bills as they stand would mean that legitimate internet companies are liable for prosecution even when they are innocent.

One of the biggest concerns is that should these kind of restrictions be enforced, then this would stifle the kind of innovation that technology companies are founded upon.

Whilst Google and Facebook can afford to make a stance, smaller companies would not enjoy the same luxury and could essentially be forced out of business.

As the letter points out, internet companies have, and continue to, drive economic growth and create jobs.

Whilst Hollywood has long been an industry that enjoys huge profits and has driven the US economy, this is no longer the case, technology and in particular the internet has changed all that.

As one report points out, as it stands right now, the movie industry is one that is in decline. Bearing this in mind, it is high time the industry stopped lobbying governments to pressure ISPs and pass bills that will criminalise innocent internet companies, and did something proactive to address the problem without harming innovation.

According to the Washington Post, the bills show a “failure on the part of lawmakers to understand how the internet works.”

The paper also points out that “under SOPA, any site that contains user-generated content, such as Flickr, Etsy or Tumblr, could be found liable for copyright infringement and be forced to shut down.”

This addresses the essential problem with SOPA, any site that has even a tiny bit of content that infringes copyright, posted by users and not the site owners, can be blocked or shut down in a flash – and the site will only have five days to appeal, a very short amount of time to effectively prepare a legal defense.


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