Web Giants Win SOPA/PIPA Fight: But For How Long?

 
on January 21 2012 1:22 PM
Anti-piracy legislation protesters gather to demonstrate against the SOPA being considered by Congress, at City Hall in San Francisco
Anti-piracy legislation protesters gather to demonstrate against the SOPA being considered by Congress, at City Hall in San Francisco Reuters

The U.S. Congress has decided to put Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA or SOPA's counterpart in the Senate) on indefinite hold, following a flood of protest against the two controversial anti-piracy bills. The Web giants have won the first round in this Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley battle. But will the Hollywood giants keep quiet or will it stage a comeback?

SOPA/PIPA Down and Out for Now

On Friday, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) put SOPA on hold just a few hours after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) announced via Twitter that he would delay putting PIPA on vote.

There's no reason that legitimate issues raised about PROTECT IP can't be resolved, he twitted. Counterfeiting & piracy cost 1000s of #jobs yearly. Americans rightfully expect to be fairly compensated 4 their work. I'm optimistic that we can reach compromise on PROTECT IP in coming week.

The decision of the U.S. Congress was a big blow to the proponents of the bill, including record companies, movie studios, and other content providers and copyright holders and, was a symbolical victory to the Web giants, who vehemently have been arguing that the legislation gave the federal government too much power over the Internet.

The U.S. Congress decision to shelve the two bills came within 48 hours after Web giants like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Craigslist staged a protest either by blacking out their sites or by highlighting the importance of protesting against the anti-piracy bills.

On Thursday, Google said over seven million people had signed an online petition against SOPA/PIPA.

Round One Victory Goes to Silicon Valley Giants - But for How Long?

However, though round one victory goes to the Web giants, the war of control over the Internet and especially, how revenue is generated on the Internet, is far from over.

Senator Reid said U.S. lawmakers must take action to stop online piracy and counterfeiting, and though the PIPA has been shelved for now, Reid said he believed that it was an extremely important piece of legislation that could move forward in the coming weeks.

While Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said PIPA deserves to be considered, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said he's hopeful that the bill will be sent to the president's desk this year.

“More time will pass with jobs lost and economies hurt by foreign criminals who are stealing American intellectual property and selling it back to American consumers,” Leahy said in a statement.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America,), News Corp., CBS Corp., Universal Music, American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild, and the Business Software Alliance, are some of the strong backers of the bills.

No wonder, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), who is opposing PIPA, said that he expect this threat to resurface.

Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and the sponsor of SOPA said he is optimistic that SOPA will see the light of the day. Smith, who counts Hollywood as the top donor to his campaign committee, said remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation and warned the web giants that the committee's decision to shelve SOPA should not be construed as a defeat for the supporters of the bill as it was only a delay.

MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said he hoped the delay will start a new round of negotiations.

As a consequence of failing to act, there will continue to be a safe haven for foreign thieves, the former senator from Connecticut said. With today's announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property.

Silicon Valley Giants Hate SOPA/PIPA. Why? Because It's Like Using a Sledgehammer to Kill an Ant (Them)

However, the Web giants are not giving up the fight either.

Why? The anti-piracy bills gives over-reaching powers to copyright holders and content providers and, if passed, will put any Web site in risk of being shut down permanently if a notice is served to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) that the Web site is hosting or linking to any content, which is in violation of copyright and other intellectual property laws.

In other words, SOPA/PIPA will not only affect the user traffic of the Web sites and the revenue generated by them, but also they can kill a site, as SOPA/PIPA would create a system that would permit copyright holders alleging infringement to seek a U.S. magistrate's permission to get an order to shut down a whole business without a court hearing. Let's be clear - the bills violate basic principles of due process.

According to Mashable, SOPA would render any Web site containing links, regardless of whether they are user-submitted, practically inoperable or liable to government take-down.

This sends shiver down the spines of the Netizens. Why? To give some perspective: if SOPA had been introduced in 1991 and not 2011, YouTube would not exist today, at least in nothing remotely like the form it has taken. Also Google and Wikipedia would be a mere shadow of what they are now.

Do We Need SOPA/PIPA? Is There an Alternative?

Does that mean the Web giants are supporting online piracy and counterfeiting? No. Most, if not all, Web sites adhere to the copyright laws in existence but the problem lies in the fact that existing copyright laws are outdated, outmoded and out-everything. Even the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which SOPA was intended to replace, is not enough. No wonder that even a legitimate Web site like YouTube has become a dumping ground for pirated material. Hence, the Creative Commons License has become popular as it's able to address a lot of what's happening in the digital media today.

Currently, the Web giants and Netizens are hoping that the U.S. Congress seriously consider the SOPA/PIPA alternative called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act) proposed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon).

OPEN is an anti-piracy bill that is more friendly to technology companies. Why Because though it would give power to the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate complaints, unlike SOPA and PIPA, it does not grant copyright holders a private right of action to target copyright infringing sites.

Conclusion

In conclusion, let's admit it - SOPA/PIPA is a recipe for disaster as the legislation's been written by lobbyists and not technologists. But here's a word of advise to SOPA/PIPA protesters, especially the Web giants. Web site blackouts will not solve anything. It will only put Internet users at an extreme inconvenience. Blacking out the Wikipedia once can grab the headlines but blacking out the site several times will only annoy its users. Rather the Web giants should directly target the supporters and co-sponsors of the bills and engage in a meaningful discussion/negotiation with them. And, if that's not possible, they should vote the SOPA/PIPA supporters in Congress out of office and promote and elect those who act in their (or public's) interest. It isn't very hard to do that, is it?

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