A new law aimed at stopping internet piracy is like taking a chainsaw when you really need a scalpel. Sound familiar? Welcome to the U.S. government. Bloggers and Realtors who market on the internet need to know more about this law. Rather than join the fight by having a black day, I asked Dallas attorney John G. Browning to weigh in on the battle for CandysDirt:
For those who tried to consult Wikipedia or certain other websites on January 17, 2012, only to see a darkened homepage, you might wonder: what’s behind the so-called anti-piracy legislation that has so many people up in arms? The two bills – SOPA (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”) and its Senate counterpart PIPA ( the “Protect IP Act”) – are well-intentioned but seriously flawed. The consequences if these bills pass in their current form could be disastrous for anyone who uses the Internet.
Both pieces of legislation are intended to combat “rogue” or pirate” websites (usually based overseas) that illegally stream protected intellectual property like movies or music. It’s no wonder then that their most vocal supporters are the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. The legislation would require internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to domain name system servers for offending websites, by allowing the U.S. Attorney General to serve a court order on ISPs, which would have to take “reasonable measures” to prevent access by their subscribers. As written, the proposed law would shift the burden from copyright holders ( where it is now) to ISPs to monitor traffic and block access to allegedly infringing sites. In addition, the legislation is written so broadly that if even one page of a website has allegedly infringing content, then the whole site must be shut down.
This is like taking a chainsaw to a job meant for a scalpel. The uproar over SOPA and PIPA has come from technology companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia and many others, as well as from legal scholars and civil libertarians. Such opponents have pointed out that the controversial legislation would stifle innovation by tech start-ups, threaten both freedom of expression and the right to due process, and even pose cybersecurity risks.
Wednesday’s protests and the vocal outpouring against SOPA and PIPA have caused its supporters to dwindle. The White House which previously supported the bills, has backtracked, and so have many legislators who were once in favor of SOPA and PIPA. And although Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, a key architect of SOPA, has agreed to withdraw the bill’s more controversial domain name blocking provisions, supporters are continuing to drop like flies on the face of the steadily mounting opposition. In addition, hearing at which legislators were scheduled to vote on the bills have been postponed.
Will we see legislation like SOPA and PIPA return? That’s quite likely, albeit in a more diluted form. After all, battling online piracy and protecting the Wikipedias, Googles, and Facebooks of this world want to foster the current climate of free expression and cutting edge innovation that makes the next generation of Internet giants possible, threats to the Internet as we know it won’t be taken lightly.
John Browning is a partner in the law office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, where he handles civil litigation in state and federal courts in areas ranging from employment and intellectual property to commercial cases and defense of products liability, professional liability, media law, and general negligence matters. His weekly syndicated newspaper column “Legally Speaking” has garnered numerous journalism awards. His book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Social Networking: Understanding Social Media’s Impact on the Law, was published in December 2010 by Thomson Reuters\West Publishing. He is the author of numerous articles on social media-related topics, and has been quoted as a national authority on the subject by the New York Times, TIME Magazine, Salon.com, Inside Counsel Magazine, Law 360, and other publications.
— Daily Local Real Estate Dish By Dallas Real Estate Insider — Candy Evans at CandysDirt.com