If only all the crackpot policies dreamed up by Congress were so easy to kick to the curb.
Last week, amid furious uproar, lawmakers decided to ditch their highly controversial online anti-piracy proposals.
As I reported, media companies like Fox, internet heavyweights like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit and Twitter, plus pressure groups and free speech advocates, were up in arms over Congress’ well-intentioned, but poorly devised, piracy bills.
Known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act), these sweeping measures would have given the U.S. Department of Justice free rein to change the face of the internet… for the worse.
In short, it could have shut down, prosecuted and/or cut off funding to websites that not only illegally host or sell pirated copyright material… but also those that advertise such material, such as search engines. Even if it’s just one offending page.
Given the size of the internet, the DoJ would be shutting down companies left and right… including hundreds who play by the rules but simply can’t keep track of every rogue company and website. Moreover, the bills didn’t just cover the United States… but the entire world!
Several sites protested by going offline for 24 hours and the anger and criticism was such that both SOPA and PIPA have now been shelved, pending revision.
And one new proposal has just come through…
Finally… a Good Idea From Congress
As Wikipedia went dark last Wednesday, Congressman Darrell Issa from California saw the light.
He submitted a new anti-piracy bill called OPEN – the Online Protection and ENforcement of Digital Trade Act – to the House of Representatives. And Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has introduced it in the Senate.
The big difference? It takes the draconian, all-encompassing shutdown and prosecution power away from the DoJ and puts it instead into the hands of the International Trade Commission (ITC).
The OPEN Act appears to have more targeted laws, which focus on websites that “primarily and willfully” infringe on U.S. copyrights and flagrantly violate the law. Upon discovering an infringing website, the ITC would issue a cease-and-desist order. This order would prohibit banks, credit cards and other payment firms from doing business with the site.
And it’s already garnered some strong support from the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and business networking site, LinkedIn.
It’s worth remembering, though, that while OPEN represents a much more sensible step in the right direction toward better, more manageable internet piracy laws, SOPA and PIPA aren’t dead just yet… but merely sleeping.
But with OPEN now in the mix, too, if the new bill is able to gather more momentum and support from those both inside and outside of Congress, SOPA and PIPA might as well stay in bed.
By the way, you can get full details on the OPEN bill – and even give feedback on it – by going to the site that Congressman Issa has set up: www.KeepTheWebOpen.com.