by Heather Callaghan
January 23, 2012
This is what remains
Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when an
overwhelming amount of Americans banned together and voiced their opposition
to Congress over both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and
Property Act (PIPA).
Sites that dimmed the screen for a day or two have gone back to normal -
Facebook users have swapped their anti-SOPA images for their previous
We may have even believed that the
postponement of the vote originally
scheduled for January 24th was some sort of white flag of capitulation. But
that is certainly not the MO of most lawmakers.
While the outcry did get the attention of Congress, they are simply
returning unflinchingly back to the drawing board to wait out our attention
spans. Articles whirled that
SOPA was dead and the bill was pulled
when the bill's sponsor Lamar Smith said in a statement that there would be
no further action “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
Lamar isn't really listening.
“It is clear that we need to revisit the
approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that
steal and sell American inventions and products.”
Actually, SOPA is set to be
reformulated in February.
PIPA will be revisited with possible amendments
in the coming weeks. Case in point, all is still open and possible - nothing
is dead, pulled, or cancelled. If that wasn't enough to keep us on our toes,
a new, similar bill has surfaced.
Déjà Vu in the form of
OPEN - The New Anti-Piracy Bill
As an alternative to SOPA-PIPA, Representative Darrell Issa (CA-R), and 24
co-sponsors introduced the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital
H.R. 3782 on Wednesday, during the Internet
OPEN would give oversight to the
International Trade Commission (ITC) instead of the Justice Department,
focuses on foreign-based websites, includes an appeals process, and
would apply only to websites that "willfully" promote copyright
The bill pretends to only target foreign
websites, while keeping Americans free to surf and post, but the
bill's wording is wide open to pursue
Just one example: when describing an infringing
site, it starts with those,
"that are accessed through a non-domestic
domain name," but continues in section (8)(A)(ii) for any site that
"conducts business directed to residents of the United States."
It sounds like, "in general," copyright holders
will be the ones filing complaints to the Commission, but the writing leaves
it open for any complainant to file.
The ITC would still have the ability to coerce
payment processors and ad networks to cease funding and linking the accused
in question. Who could determine "willful" infringement?
Also, none of these bills had been decided before the U.S. Government took
down New Zealand owned
Megaupload.com during the commotion.
Anonymous responded by shutting down the
the U.S. Department of Justice
Recording Industry Association of
the U.S. Copyright Office
Broadcast Music Inc.
the Motion Picture Association of
"The [DOJ's] action 'demonstrates
why we don’t need SOPA in the first place,' points out
PCWorld’s Tony Bradley."
The government was enforcing a previous
anti-piracy law called
PRO-IP signed by Bush in 2008.
OPEN is gaining support from groups like,
While it seems admirable that the bill is transparent and open for public
comment, most laws of this nature are broad and allow for bigger, no-common
sense crackdowns later. Plus, there might only be a couple concessions and
the pacifying effects of "being heard."
One commenter of the bill aptly noted:
'Reasonable belief' and 'credible evidence'
are too vague and have the appearance of inviting highly subjective
interpretation with the option for the commission and/or the provider to
exercise sweeping powers with impunity.
Whenever any group is appeased after a battle,
it cannot be emphasized enough - the lawmakers' modus operandi will be: aim
high, brace for the outcry, make a couple alterations and sneak the bill
back in when no one's looking.
Keep it going and going. Call it by a different
name. Haggle. It appears there is compromise and reasoning now, but once the
bill passes into law, reason goes out the window, and we are the only ones
Theft is a reality - although not one that has seriously
damaged the growing entertainment industry, or caused massive death and
devastation. If Hollywood, pitching the biggest fit, were actually going
down, why should we go down with it?
It is more unfortunate that Americans must be so tirelessly vigilant to
protect their online activities from the same lawmakers who are tanking the
country in so many other truly devastating ways.
The dismantling of Internet freedom will not stop here.
Let's borrow an MO and not let up.
To SOPA - Say NOPA!
To PIPA - Pipe down!
To OPEN - Shut it!