A week ago I expected to be glued to my news feeds all day today, waiting for the voting results from the Senate regarding the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). However, in the wake of an internet backlash from many major websites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Mozilla, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed the scheduled vote. “There’s no reason that legitimate issues raised about PROTECT IP can’t be resolved. Counterfeiting & piracy cost 1000s of #jobs yearly #pipa,” Senator Reid tweeted last Friday.
You might say to yourself, “Self, what exactly do tech companies have against intellectual property?” The answer: nothing. What gets their panties in a bunch is the way PIPA enables the government to enforce against offenders.
Here are some of the “legitimate issues” as referenced by Senator Reid:
7) the term ‘Internet site dedicated to infringing activities’ means an Internet site that–
(A) has no significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating the–
(i) reproduction, distribution, or public performance of copyrighted works, in complete or substantially complete form, in a manner that constitutes copyright infringement under section 501 of title 17, United States Code;
(ii) violation of section 1201 of title 17, United States Code; or
(iii) sale, distribution, or promotion of goods, services, or materials bearing a counterfeit mark, as that term is defined in section 34(d) of the Lanham Act; or
(B) is designed, operated, or marketed by its operator or persons operating in concert with the operator, and facts or circumstances suggest is used, primarily as a means for engaging in, enabling, or facilitating the activities described under clauses (i), (ii), or (iii) of subparagraph (A);
Let’s say I uploaded onto YouTube an adorable video of my cat unrolling toilet paper on my bathroom floor. Furthermore, let’s say that some idiot makes a comment promoting his illegal pirating site (instead of fawning over my kitty) on the same page. Does this make YouTube an “[enabler or facilitator of the] reproduction, distribution, or public performance of copyrighted works,” according to section (A) above? Under this law, YouTube, Google, or even your business’s website could be taken down without even a court order due to such loose jargon.
Within a week of Reid’s announcement, file-sharing giant Megaupload was taken down after a two year investigation by the FBI. Megaupload, the former holder of the 13th most visited site, did not need SOPA/PIPA to be taken down for piracy. Then, why are we at risk at losing our liberties?