WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to resume markup of a controversial bill aimed at fighting internet copyright infringement, the Stop Online Piracy Act.
The bill is supported by entertainment giants such as Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, CBS, and the Recording Industry Association of America. However, a broad group open internet advocates and internet companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, eBay, and Twitter oppose the bill on the grounds that it would stifle further technological innovation and free speech.
According to MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics, entertainment media companies outspent internet companies by a more than 4-to-1 ratio in contributions to the campaigns of current members of the House Judiciary Committee between Jan. 1, 2009 and June 30, 2011. Entertainment media companies spent $1.4 million on campaign contributions to those lawmakers, compared to just $0.3 million by internet companies.
While SOPA is ostensibly aimed at websites that exist to offer pirated movies, music and other entertainment media, its language is broad enough to put any website that allows user-submitted content at risk. Under the bill, the government would be able to prevent access to any website accused of hosting material that infringes on copyright.
Opponents of the bill are concerned with its implications for free speech and the future of technological innovation. If SOPA passes, it might become too risky to develop new services that allow individual users to share content.
The bill could potentially affect every-day internet users who do not infringe on copyrights. If you store your personal family photos on a photo-sharing site that another user posts copyrighted content to, the entire website could be made to disappear from the internet making all of the photos it hosted inaccessible from the U.S.
The Digital Millenium Copyright Act, passed in 1998, already contains provisions against online copyright infringement while limiting the liability of providers of online services for the actions of their users. However, many in the entertainment industry do not believe it goes far enough because it can be difficult or impossible to enforce U.S. court decisions against websites that operate in other countries.
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