Web Freedom Groups Call on Publishers to Oppose SOPA

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Mozilla Foundation, and other online groups are calling on hyperlocal news publishers and other online developers to oppose the “Stop Online Piracy Act” in advance of tomorrow’s markup session on the bill before the House Judiciary Committee.

As Street Fight originally reported on November 14, 2011, SOPA would give major content providers, such as movie studios, the ability to get web sites blacklisted if they contain copyright-infringing materials. Rep. Lamar Smith, who introduced the bill, released an amendment on December 13, 2011 that reworks some of the bill, taking out some provisions that were the primary target of critics.

The original version of the act gave content owners the ability cut off web sites by simply giving notice to search engines, payment processors and ad networks. Rep. Smith’s new amendment would limit the US Attorney General’s ability to blacklist foreign counterfeit sites by compelling the office to obtain a court order.

The revised amendment, however, would enable content owners to bring actions against Web Sites, domain registrars, or domain owner if the site is “primarily designed” to violate trademarks and copyrights. Critics still see this provision as a problem. As discussed in Street Legal, there is concern that SOPA could apply to a hyperlocal news publisher that aggregates outside content.

Today, Ben Simon of the Mozilla Foundation sent an email to subscribers (including the author) encouraging them to voice their opposition to SOPA prior to the Judiciary Committee’s markup hearing. Simon directed users to AmericanCensorship.org/moz.

Corynne McSherry, in a posting on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site commented: “While the new version jettisons some of the most harmful language, it doesn’t go far enough.” She emphasized: “So let’s be clear: this new version is no compromise.” Mike Masnick of TechDirt calls the amended bill a “censorship bill.”

Creative America and the Motion Picture Industry of America, major proponents of SOPA, have not posted any response to Rep. Smith’s amendments as of the publishing of this post. Both organizations, as well as other content providers, believe the bill is necessary to stop the spread of online piracy and counterfeiting. As stated by MPAA’s Michael O’Leary: “Combating piracy is important for the future of free speech, innovation, and commerce on the internet.”

Brian Dengler is an attorney with Vorys Legal Counsel and journalist who covers legal issues in eMedia. He is a former vice-president of AOL, Inc., a former newspaperman, and an EMMY-winning TV journalist. He teaches new media issues as an adjunct at Kent State University and formerly at Otterbein University.