The Laws

Nimisha Jaiswal explains what the two american bills are about

Written by Nimisha Jaiswal | Published: January 23, 2012 12:08 am

The Laws

Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) aim to prevent copyright infringement in the United States,and will enable the US government and copyright holders to take strong action against websites for online piracy.

Action Possible

Along with barring the infringing websites,the laws would provide the powers to prevent online advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business with these sites and search engines from linking to such sites. They may also ask Internet service providers to block access to these sites. While the bill gives immunity to Internet providers who actively report and take action against such sites,it makes copyright holders who knowingly misrepresent infringing sites liable for damages. For 10 such infringements within six months,the law can punish an offender with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Support

The laws’ supporters state that preventing “foreign infringement” will protect not only American intellectual property and rights but thousands of American jobs as well. The profits going to rogue sites,they say,will be redirected to American innovators. American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) Paul Almeida says that “Freedom of speech is not the same as lawlessness on the Internet.” Prevention of the sale of counterfeit drugs and other harmful material has also been cited as an important aim for the laws.

Opposition

Many major websites say almost all websites will be affected by the restrictions imposed,as advertisers,search engines and other associated sites will be hit. The onus of monitoring content will be shifted entirely on the sites by this law. The “safe harbour” protection given by the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act will be weakened – while sites could earlier rely on reports about infringement on its site,and were not accountable unless such a report was made,now,the policing is the sites hands.

Opponents are certain that the law can be used to target whistleblowers,and free speech in general. Other governments can be expected to take similar action against whatever they wish to oppose — privacy,hate speech,insult to public officials,or political dissent.

Proxy servers,used widely in movements like the Arab Spring,will be affected,thwarting online activism and circumvention of autocratic restrictions online.

The bills’ language,according to forums like eWeek,is so broad that anyone can be targeted.

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