PIPA means The PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011), also known as Senate Bill 968 or S. 968, which is a proposed law with the stated goal of giving the US government and copyright holders additional tools to curb access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods”, especially those registered outside the U.S. The bill was introduced on May 12, 2011 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that implementation of the bill would cost the federal government $47 million through 2016, to cover enforcement costs and the hiring and training of 22 new special agents and 26 support staff. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, but Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) placed a hold on it. The PROTECT IP Act is a rewrite of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which failed to pass in 2010. A similar House version of the bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced on October 26, 2011. More details on PIPA may be read by clicking here.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261 or H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) and a bipartisan group of 12 initial co-sponsors. The bill, if made law, would expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Presented to the House Judiciary Committee, it builds on the similar PRO-IP Act of 2008 and the corresponding Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act.
The originally proposed 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 makes the request, the court order could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a crime, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison for ten such infringements within six months. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement.
Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites. They cite examples such as Google’s $500 million settlement with the Department of Justice for its role in a scheme to target U.S. consumers with ads to illegally import prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies.
Opponents say that it violates the First Amendment, is Internet censorship, will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistle-blowing and other free speech actions. Opponents have initiated a number of protest actions, including petition drives, boycotts of companies that support the legislation, and planned service blackouts by major Internet companies scheduled to coincide with the next Congressional hearing on the matter. The House Judiciary Committee held hearings on November 16 and December 15, 2011. The Committee was scheduled to continue debate in January 2012. More details on SOPA may be read by clicking here.
Originally, the majority of technology corporations that put their input into these bills, were in support of it. Companies like Apple, Intel, Corel, Dell, Microsoft, Adobe, and 23 other big name tech companies are supporters under the BSA(Business Software Alliance). However, there is still hope in the realm of big name support of tech giants. Two of the biggest in Mozilla and Google, have gone public with their issues with these bills and their reasons why they can no longer offer their support after further research was done.
Mozilla is strongly against both acts because of its use of DNS filtering in both. Mozilla, like the majority of the tech world, believes that by using DNS filtering this will open up more security risks and slow down the system’s up and coming extension DNSSEC.
Some of the dangers posed by PIPA and SOPA include enabling U.S. government agencies and private companies to hunt for any little bit of possible copyright violation and will make it the blog owners responsibility for everything that is displayed on their site, including the comments of visitors. For example, if an article is published with a logo, or trademark, of corporation and that corporation doesn’t like that it is being put on display on the site. Even though the author of this article could have used it as a teaching method, critique, praising good design, or anything you can think of, it doesn’t matter and these acts would be direct enough to give an area for attack.
As a part of the Protest Movement, several major websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit and TwitPic, said they would “go dark” on Wednesday, January 18, to show their opposition to the two bills in Congress. (A list of participants is at SOPAStrike.com.) Read more about Wikipedia protest here.
If you visit one of the protesting sites Wednesday, you may get an error message, but they’re more likely to post messages urging you to join them in opposition to SOPA and PIPA.
Others, such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, have not said they would join. Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, made a widely-cited tweet on Monday: “Closing a global business in reaction to single-issue national politics is foolish.”
Google today said it would remain online, but show its opposition to the bills with a link Wednesday on its home page in the U.S. “Like many businesses, entrepreneurs and web users, we oppose these bills because there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking American companies to censor the Internet,” said a Google spokesperson. Read more about Google protest here.
SOPA, the House bill, is on hold for now, and a hearing to discuss how it would work technically has been delayed. In the Senate, a vote on PIPA is still scheduled for Jan. 24, but it’s a procedural matter (a Senate staffer, asking not to be named, said it’s “on whether to debate debating the bill”). Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who was one of the original sponsors, has said he would like to amend the bill.
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