SOPA, pols run into Internet buzz saw

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) raises a ruckus as the Internet wakes up to realize that this nutty copyright bill could actually pass.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial nutty, delusional and shortsighted bill created by people who could be construed as idiots, is hitting a buzzsaw of Internet opposition. Large companies are also starting to tabulate their potential compliance costs too.

On the surface, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) sounds reasonable. All the legislation wants to do is stop online copyright infringement. The rub is that anyone can complain and have sites taken down and cut off from their revenue sources. Yes, you can be a rogue site too.

SOPA was introduced Oct. 26 and despite some initial outcry largely went unnoticed. A hearing with a arguably loaded deck in favor of SOPA was met by late inning resistance from AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo! and Zynga.

In a nutshell, SOPA kills the safe harbor in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). So long safe harbor and hello U.S. Attorney General.

Related: CNET: MPAA's SOPA testimony links job loss to piracy | CNET: Copyright Office will endorse SOPA anti-piracy bill | New House of Representatives bill may strangle the Internet or nerf the First Amendment | Techmeme

How would this work in practice?

A reader of CNET News' Declan McCullagh's story about SOPA sums it up nicely.

I've e-mailed C|Net to notify them that that you post was plagiarized from a satire blog post of a local comedy troupe. I've asked that they ban your user ID and IP from C|Net and their affiliates (CBS Interactive, Last.fm, CBS sports, ZDnet, Chow, Clicker, GameSpot, metacritic, TechRepublic, etc.) and turn over your IP and identifying info over to the troupe so that they can sue. $150,000 isn't much, but it'll go a long way in fixing up their venue.

Thanks for playing. Credit to FellowConspirator for the witty rebuttal.

In other words, you allege and we take sites down.

Given that reality it's no surprise that legislators are playing a bit of defense. Mozilla is urging folks to write their Congresspeople. Others call SOPA an Internet blacklist bill. The Electronic Freedom Foundation calls SOPA a disaster.

But hey don't believe the Internet guys. MasterCard's Linda Kirkpatrick, group head of customer performance integrity, outlined how SOPA will make her company's costs surge. In her testimony, Kirkpatrick said that the time frames between an allegation and actual response are unrealistic. Kirkpatrick also has a beef with MasterCard being a copyright monitoring outpost of the U.S. Copyright Office. She said:

As the Committee moves forward with legislation to address the sale of infringing products or services over the Internet, MasterCard believes it is essential to ensure that any obligations imposed on payment systems are capable of being readily implemented through reasonable policies and procedures, and that payment systems be shielded from litigation and liability when acting in accordance with the bill’s requirements.

Just what the U.S. economy needs more acronyms to distract us from doing real work.

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