The year 2012 at its very early stage has witnessed a dramatic legislative war in the Information Technology sphere. The war against two bills namely Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) of the United States introduced by U. S. representative Lamar. S. Smith (R-TX) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) gained momentum in the early days of 2012 for inadequate wording and an attempt at overkill.
SOPA aims to add muscle to the long arm of the U.S. law enforcement agencies to fight the trafficking of intellectual property and counterfeited goods on the internet while PIPA aims to enable copyright holders and the U.S. government to restrict access to websites indulging in counterfeited goods and the like, mostly outside the U.S.
While the intentions of these bills appear quite noble, the provisions in the bills for enforcement appear to be quite far reaching. For example, SOPA will authorize law enforcement agents to block an entire domain if a blog or website is found to be in violation. This action seems to contradict the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which limits the liability of online services providers for copyright infringement by their users. Search engines are also required by SOPA to delete the violating domain name, a provision which will encourage censorship of the web, limit innovation, and impede freedom of speech thus violating the First Amendment. Imagine what the burden and cost of maintaining online presence by the enterprise will be. Enterprises whose business is conducted 99% online may become adversely affected should a site on their domain not related to their business be found wanting. This may also give undue advantage to competitors.
The protests of January 18, 2012 against these bills by major online corporations like Reddit, English Wikipedia’s community of editors, Google, Mozilla and Flickr and a letter signed by 130 technology entrepreneurs and executives and sent to congress stated that PIPA in its present form will “hurt economic growth, and chill innovations in legitimate services that help people create, communicate and make money online” tells on the negative effect these bills are likely to have on the Internet.
Google’s petition against these bills recorded over 4 million signatures. Politicians also publicly withdrew support for these bills culminating in the bills being removed from further voting by January 20, 2012. Going by the fact that PIPA is a rewording of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Acts (COICA) which failed to pass in 2010, it seems more likely that SOPA 7 and PIPA 7 will soon be released and they may be as potent in their wordings as their earlier versions for online enterprise data.