White House Opposes SOPA, Congress Drops Bill

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U.S. President Barak Obama publicly condemned the proposed SOPA legislation for the first time over the weekend, and Congress responded by dropping the bill, at least for now. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, was presented as a tool to help stop online intellectual property theft, although opponents to the bill said it would give the government control over the content Internet users can view.

SOPA Conks OutIn response to online petitions against the SOPA legislation, the President said even though he sees online piracy from foreign websites as a problem, he won’t support any bill that erodes freedom of speech or expression, or that potentially threatens online security.

“Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,” White House spokesman Macon Phillips said. He added, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

The President targeted key parts of the SOPA bill that would require domain hosts to block websites suspected of sharing content that’s copyright protected based on little more than a complaint.

“Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security,” Mr. Phillips said. “Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online.”

Bill supporters responded first by dropping language that required hosting companies to block websites suspected of copyright infringement, then later shelved the entire bill. A new version could, however, find its way back to the debate floor should law makers come to a consensus on wording that’s more to the President’s liking.

SOPA would’ve made it surprisingly easy to get court orders to shut down any website suspected of participating — directly or indirectly — in copyright infringement. Internet service providers would’ve been required to block access to sites that host or link to other sites suspected of copyright infringement, and unauthorized streaming of copyright-protected content would be a felony offense.

The man that introduced the bill, Lamar Smith (R-TX), had hoped to push it through the House Judiciary Committee before the Christmas holiday. His efforts, however, stalled and lawmakers picked it back up again after the new year.

While SOPA may be on the back burner for now, a similar bill called the Protect IP Act (PIPA) is still working its way through the Senate.

In response to both SOPA and PIPA, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) launched what he’s calling the Keep The Web OPEN Project to underscore the importance of a free and open Internet and to offer up alternative legislation for protecting intellectual property while avoiding online censorship. 

“The OPEN Act secures two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to benefit from what they’ve created. And second, Americans have a right to an open internet,” the OPEN website states. “Our duty is to protect these rights.”

The President’s stance on SOPA, along with Congress’s decision to put the bill on hold for now, is good news for everyone that opposed the bill, but it isn’t a complete victory. Politicians could still take SOPA’s language and add it to other bills, or find new wording that brings the current bill back to life.

For now, the President is encouraging businesses and end users to work together on combating online piracy. “We expect and encourage all private parties, including both content creators and Internet platform providers working together, to adopt voluntary measures and best practices to reduce online piracy,” he said.

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Comments

Dorje Sylas

If Congress can actually figure out away to rewrite SOPA and PIPA so that it doesn’t boot stomp all over free and protected forms of speech I"d be for it (where in its current form I am not).

Then again I’m in the camp that thinks Copyright protections have been extended to far as it is. The original was 28 years (if you lived past the first 14). Now its well over 100, closer to 200 (life time + 70) if you aren’t a corporation. Yes, I’ve got skin in the game as I have three unpublished pre-teen books I helped co-write over a decade ago. I’m past the 14 year mark and if I can’t make money off them in another 14 more they really should be open to the public, I shouldn’t be able to continue to sit on them for the rest of my life.

“Happy Birthday to You” would be a prime example of something that would have been actionable under SOPA and is still a fully copyrighted work. Based on a tune from the 1893, was copywrited in 1935, and extended to 2030. That’s assuming Congress isn’t lobbied to further extend copy protection. Which is sung at almost every birthday celebration, and today “broadcast” over the internet often without due compensation to Time Warner who now holds the right. Singing ‘Happy Birthday to You” to your grandmother and posting it to YouTube without written permission would be a clear violation of Time Warner’s copyright. Quite possibly broadcasting it through a service like Skype or FaceTime would also be an infringement.

The information in this rant is sourced from http://www.unhappybirthday.com/

Terrin

Then again I?m in the camp that thinks Copyright protections have been extended to far as it is. The original was 28 years (if you lived past the first 14). Now its well over 100, closer to 200 (life time + 70) if you aren?t a corporation.

I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. If I am not mistaken, the original copyright term was 14 years. The copyright holder had to affirmative renew the copyright after the first 14 years or it expired into the public domain.


I think getting rid of the renewal requirement a mistake. You shouldn’t have a right to a copyright if you haven’t asserted any claims to it after a certain period of time. After all, the threshold to obtain a copyright is very low. A modicum of creativity to be specific.

This is especially odd when you consider the threshold for obtaining patent is much higher, and the period of protection is low (14 years last time I checked).

Lee Dronick

I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. If I am not mistaken, the original copyright term was 14 years. The copyright holder had to affirmative renew the copyright after the first 14 years or it expired into the public domain.

The copyright time was extended because the Disney characters such as Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, and many others was due to expire. Disney and others pushed for the change in how long a work can be copyrighted. Mickey Mouse is trademarked.

This is especially odd when you consider the threshold for obtaining patent is much higher, and the period of protection is low (14 years last time I checked).

Last year I read a book about the Industrial Revolution. The 14 year patent was instituted because that was the length of two consecutive apprenticeship. The Crown, Queen Elizabeth I, felt that it gave enough time for the inventor to make a profit, but after that the apprentices who would then be journeymen could take the technology and use it as well as improve it. It was a balance between giving the inventor a chance for profit, but then putting the technology could spread out for the common good.

MacFrogger

The article states:

The President targeted key parts of the SOPA bill that would require domain hosts to block websites suspected of sharing content that?s copyright protected based on little more than a complaint.

At the risk of sounding somewhat Boscovian, didn’t Apple just pull some developer’s game(s) out of the App Store based solely on a complaint from a company (was it Electronic Arts?) that it was infringing its IP?

Lee Dronick

At the risk of sounding somewhat Boscovian, didn?t Apple just pull some developer?s game(s) out of the App Store based solely on a complaint from a company (was it Electronic Arts?) that it was infringing its IP?

Was the game infringing? Apple may not know to look into the matter until EA complained.

MacFrogger

Lee said:

Was the game infringing?

I dunno.  But that’s the point.  Apple was the sole judge, and ultimately the executioner.

Scavenger

I dunno.  But that?s the point.  Apple was the sole judge, and ultimately the executioner.

There is a difference between what governments can and should be able to do and what a private company can or should be able to do.

The government is there to promote and protect the general welfare. A company is there to make money and protect itself.

bigyaz

U.S. President Barak Obama…

Really? You can’t spell the president’s name? How embarrassing for you.

MacFrogger

Scavenger said:
There is a difference between what governments can and should be able to do and what a private company can or should be able to do.

I agree - and I don’t think anyone would argue that point.

Scavenger also said:
A company is there to make money and protect itself.

And that is pretty hard to disagree with as well.  But you leave out any discussion of the real issue here - what does the little guy do who MAY be wrongfully accused of encroaching IP who thereby has his/her app unjustifiably pulled due solely to a complaint filed by Big Co Inc?  What recourse does this individual have, with Apple or anyone else? 

In such cases, does Apple do due diligence to evaluate the validity of said IP encroachment by having one of their patent attorneys review the complaint?  And are Apple patent attorneys always correct in their judgement? (Judging by recent court cases, that question is meant to be rhetorical!)  The point is, this puts the little guy (without deep pockets) at a real disadvantage simply because Big Co Inc (with deep pockets) filed a complaint, and IMHO there are real fairness/process issues with Apple wielding this power let alone extending it to the Federal govt.

For the record: I have no problem with a curated App Store, and believe Apple has every right to exclude porno or other material based on a set of criteria it alone is free to define.  But removing an App because someone files a complaint that they think it infringes their IP?  This is a situation with great potential for abuse…

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