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How SOPA and PIPA Affect US Websites and Companies ~pj
Thursday, January 19 2012 @ 09:20 AM EST

Khan Academy has provided a very helpful video, "SOPA and PIPA : What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling", explaining how SOPA and PIPA would work. It gives the lie to those supporters of the bills who claim it is targeting *only* foreign and illegal sites. Khan Academy, the famous non-profit educational site, shows how this "shoot-first, ask-questions-later" legislation could affect YouTube, Facebook or CNN, any site with user-generated content.

I hope journalists and members of Congress in particular will view the video, because he goes through the wording of the proposed bills, bit by bit. It's the best I've seen, by far. And for the rest of us, if we see journalists making mistakes in covering this story, why not let them know about this resource in a friendly way?

Jump To Comments

And here's how Sir Tim Berners Lee, the "father of the internet", views SOPA, as reported by Nick Farrell at Fudzilla:
Sir Tim said that the US plans were undemocratic and violate human rights.

As major websites including Wikipedia blacked out in protest overnight, the web's creator, Sir Tim-Berners Lee, urged people to let their feelings be known to block it before it is enacted.

"It affects all the stuff on the internet working and something which would affect what you want to connect to, where you want to connect to," Sir Tim said.

He said that if Internet users were in American they should call somebody or send an email to protest against these (censorship) bills because they have not been put together to respect human rights as is appropriate in a democratic country.

Sir Tim's call to arms was made at IBM's annual Lotusphere conference, held in the southern, state of Florida.

And here's an open letter to Washington from some artists who make their living from their creative work, expressing their concerns about SOPA and PIPA. An excerpt:
We, along with the rest of society, have benefited immensely from a free and open Internet. It allows us to connect with our fans and reach new audiences. Using social media services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we can communicate directly with millions of fans and interact with them in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services - artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result.

We are deeply concerned that PIPA and SOPA's impact on piracy will be negligible compared to the potential damage that would be caused to legitimate Internet services. Online piracy is harmful and it needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of censoring creativity, stifling innovation or preventing the creation of new, lawful digital distribution methods.

And when some claim it only affects foreign websites, what do they mean *only*? Here's Michael Geist on what SOPA would mean for Canada:
Canadian copyright expert and University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist says the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as House Bill 3261, would have the power to work in Canada, shutting down websites for copyright infringement even if they aren't running afoul of Canadian laws.

"The goal in many ways of SOPA is to reach beyond the borders of the United States," Geist said. "It's Canadian sites and sites around the world that would find themselves a target for these kinds of actions."

"...even if they aren't running afoul of Canadian laws."

As for US law, here's the description of two letters sent to Congress from two lawyers, Laurence Tribe and Marvin Ammori. Both write that the bills would violate the First Amendment, essentially for being overbroad, and criticize the penalties framework. The introduction:

Today, both Professor Laurence Tribe and I submitted letters and legal memoranda to Congress explaining that proposed copyright legislation would violate the First Amendment and be struck down in court. (His letter is available here, and mine is available here.)...

From a free speech perspective, the problem with SOPA and PROTECT IP can be stated simply. The bills are not limited; they’re sledgehammers not scalpels.

They do not, as often advertised by the copyright industry, merely target foreign “rogue” sites like the Pirate Bay. They are not even limited to sites guilty of any copyright infringement, direct or even contributory infringement. Instead, the bills would extend not only to foreign but also to domestic websites that merely “facilitate” or “enable” infringement. Thus, in their language, the bills target considerable protected speech on legitimate sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. The bills also affect non-infringing speech by search engines, advertisers, and domain name providers.

Coupled with this overbroad scope, the bills authorize remedies that lack the usual procedural safeguards, ensuring that even more protected, non-infringing speech will be restricted. Even though a judicial determination is generally required to remove speech from circulation, the House version empowers copyright-holders to send notices to payment processors and advertisers to shut off funding for non-infringing sites that meet the bill’s broad definitions. The bills also encourage over-enforcement by making companies immune from suit for mistakenly punishing sites outside even the bills’ over-expansive scope.

Both letters are PDFs. So, when folks continue to allege that the bills target only illegal foreign sites, do they know better?

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