The Entertainment Consumers Association is not mincing words. Straight on their website, they declare three pieces of legislation collectively known as Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA (H.R. 3261) and Protect IP (S. 968 and S.978) as "the worst legislation we've ever seen". It warns that everyday users could be thrown in jail for merely putting up a speedrun or a remixed song:
- It strips current laws by now making internet companies, which used to be immune, liable for their users’ communications. This means that Facebook, Youtube, WordPress, Google and more are now on the hook for what you post.
- It gives the US Attorney General, with court order, the power to seize websites that possibly infringe or partially infringe copyright. There would be no due process and no chance to defend yourself before the seizure. The mere accusation can get a website taken away.
- It violates Net Neutrality by ordering internet providers, advertising companies and payment systems to block accused websites with technology that just doesn’t exist.
- It threatens users by imposing fines or jail time for posting even derivatives of copywrited work(s). A video of your karaoke, playing the piano, video game speed trial would now all be punishable if a copyright holder decides to enforce it.
I have held back my comments on SOPA and Protect IP for several days just so I can peruse the literature. The reported purpose of this trio of bills is to protect American jobs and copyrighted content from target "rogue" foreign websites that infringe on those copyrights. Even Sony and Nintendo of America have voiced their support of the bill along with other numerous media companies. These are noble goals for any bill, but solely based on how it's written, it's much too broad and vague, to the point that it harms the Internet, the future of technology, and ultimately American jobs and the American people.
Under the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act, any claim of copyright infringement must first be sent to the Internet service provider or host and, unless the infringer sends a counter-notice stating why there are not infringing, the infringing material must be taken down. It's not a perfect system by any means, but it's at least some form of due process where you are presumed innocent before being proved guilty.
However, under SOPA/Protect IP, there's hardly any provisions stating that the material needs to be put back up following a counter notice, and a court order could have payment processors and ad networks cut off their service to a site before they've had a chance to defend themselves.
Sites like Justin.tv, YouTube, Facebook, and Google+ (and Game Revolution, I reckon) would also be responsible for every piece of content that goes up on their site just so that they aren't held liable for the worst of the worst users. Venture capitalists also find the wording in the bill, "denying US capital to notorious foreign infringers", much too vague. This would cause unnecessarily draconian enforcement and dismantle the entirety of the global DNS structure. In addition, it also creates an Internet government-sanctioned blacklist that can be too easily abused by Internet Service Providers that find a competitor's site to be infringing.
Worse yet, it would undo much of our victory in Brown vs. EMA earlier this year, in which video games were deemed protected speech.