Media Companies Slam SOPA Alternative — What It Means for Hyperlocals

Representatives of large media companies are opposing a new anti-piracy bill introduced by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Representative Darell Issa (R-Calif.) that offers an alternative to another bill — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — which critics say place to much burden on hyperlocal news publishers and other web sites.

Known as the OPEN Act (the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade), owners of important intellectual property rights in content like movies can petition the International Trade Commission to investigate cases of counterfeit imports. The ITC could compel payment processors like Visa and PayPal to cease doing business with such rogue sites.

The OPEN Act is a response to the Stop Online Piracy Act that has been pushed by major content providers, such as movie studios. 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.

Rebecca Jeschke, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Street Fight on November 14 that under SOPA, “Hyperlocal news sites would be as vulnerable as any other site on the internet, particularly if they incorporate user-generated content. Under this legislation, a few false moves by contributors might make the site inaccessible.” The greatest danger is that a hyperlocal news site, which may depend on aggregating content and using user content, could face the threat of being blocked on the internet if a media outlet claims the hyperlocal news site merely infringes the content of others.

“Building on the International Trade Commission’s existing IP expertise and authority makes it possible to go after legitimate cases of IP abuse without doing irreparable harm to the Internet.  It also just makes sense,” said Senator Wyden in support of the OPEN Act. Senator Wyden and Rep. Issa operate, where the community can post comments on the new bill.

The Recording Industry  Association of America has criticized the OPEN Act, and continues to back its support for SOPA. In a January 6 blog post, Mitch Gazlier, senior executive vice president of RIAA, said: “SOPA was introduced to address the devastating and immediate impact of foreign rogue sites dealing in infringing and counterfeiting works and products. … Why in the world would we shift enforcement against these sites from the Department of Justice and others who are well-versed in these issues to the ITC, which focuses on patents and clearly does not operate on the short time frame necessary to be effective?” The Motion Picture Industry of America claims the OPEN Act is “going easy on Internet Piracy.”

On the other hand, major online Web providers such as AOL, eBay, Google, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo!, Zynga and Facebook support the new OPEN Act. In a joint letter posted on, the companies stated in a joint letter that the OPEN Act “targets foreign rogue sites without inflicting collateral damage on legitimate, law-abiding U.S. Internet companies by bringing well-established international trade remedies to bear on this problem.” The Computer & Communication Industry Association, the Consumer Electronics Association and provided similar support in a letter to Sen. Wyden and Rep. Issa on December 12, 2012.

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.

  1. January 9, 2012

    I wasn’t able to find any actual statements by Google saying they support the OPEN act. There are just several political webpages that say they do.

    Until you can provide a me with an actual quote or article to say this I will assume this is just the aggregation of fake new to drum up support for the OPEN act.

    1. Brian Dengler
      January 9, 2012

      Terry, thank you for the catch. The article was cut off. Google’s support for OPEN was part of a joint letter located at The article will be updated. Regards, Brian

      1. February 8, 2012

         Thanks for the heads up and the follow up comment 🙂

  2. January 9, 2012

    This bill will effectively destroy social
    media & the web along with it. I have always been a strong support
    of copyrights. Although in this case this bill is  nothing short
    of draconian. Copyright  policy
    needs to strike a careful balance. Large-scale copyright infringement
    undermines our First Amendment rights in promoting
    freedom of expression and therefore threatens the growth of new
    emerging media, venture capital & e-commerce. At the same time the
    concerns over copyright does not justify congressional
    policies that jeopardize the open architecture of the web or crush
    innovation, legitimate free expression & fair use.

    The free flow
    of information is critical to keeping the web a legitimate & reliable
    source of education & information technology, in a world where this
    is becoming increasingly limited. The policy of guilty until proven
    innocent is not the format in which the web can grow & prosper. As
    the great JFK stated: “We are not afraid to entrust the American people
    with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and
    competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge
    the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of
    its people.” STOP SOPA & IP PROTECTION ACT NOW!!!

  3. R315r4z0r
    January 10, 2012

     If you create a property, it should fall on you and you ALONE to protect that property. You made it therefore it is your responsibility. The world is changing and becoming more digital and in turn become more open and free to sharing information. Just because these big-wig companies are failing to adapt to the new market doesn’t give them the right to boss everyone else around. They are the ones falling behind. If they don’t change their business models then they don’t get the right to complain. They were fine with using the internet to propagate their bushiness but now when the repercussions come back at them, they call foul. 

    You don’t stand in front of a train and neglect to move and then come back saying that it’s the train’s fault for hitting you. You put yourself in that position and failed to act. The train was only doing what it was designed to do. YOU are at fault.

    I’m sick and tired of hearing proposal after proposal, bill after bill to turn the government into an all controlling, all knowing organization. People strike out when they hear the word “socialist” and then shutter at the thought of becoming one… but then these same people turn around and claim to be too busy or ill prepared enough to do things on their own and want the government to do it for them.

    These bills are examples of this. Other examples include proposals to limit/censor content so that it doesn’t “pollute the minds of children.” God forbid that people take responsibility for their responsibilities themselves instead of pushing to turn the government into their national baby sitter.

    I swear not a single person in this country understands even the most basic fundamental principles on which the country is based on.

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Street Fight Daily: 01.09.12