by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

The Internet and Intellectual Property House Bill: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/ Senate Bill: Protect IP Act (PIPA)

A pair of bills intended to prevent online piracy – theft of intellectual property – have been introduced in Congress. The Senate bill, introduced in June, is called the Protect IP Act. The companion House bill, introduced in late October, is called the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA. The House bill was originally introduced to deal with U.S. access to foreign websites that traffic in the unauthorized distribution of intellectual property. But it goes farther.

Both houses of Congress would have to pass the same bill, and the President would have to sign the bill, before it becomes law. This law could have a serious impact on artists and the internet.

These bills create more opportunities for the government and interested individuals to police websites – both domestic and non-domestic – engaged in activities that infringe intellectual property rights. Websites found to be dedicated to infringing activities would quickly and efficiently become inaccessible to users.

TCG supports legislation that protects artists against theft of their work. Intellectual property and artists’ proper compensation is important. At the same time, TCG unequivocally supports freedom of expression and innovation. It is a balancing act to craft legislation that includes meaningful copyright protection and yet does not threaten expression, innovation or commerce for artists online.

TCG is concerned that SOPA contains overly broad provisions and that websites and Internet Service Providers would be forced to monitor activity and that websites could be unilaterally shut down.

Yahoo, Google, Facebook and Public Knowledge, to name a few, oppose the legislation. The Motion Picture Association of America, the Songwriters Guild of America, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the American Federation of Musicians support the legislation. The Future of Music Coalition is concerned with protecting copyright but believes the bill as currently drafted has too much potential for unintended consequences.

Legislation that simultaneously protects artists against the theft of their work, and yet has the potential to curb freedom of expression and innovation, is complex and not clear-cut. TCG hopes that legislation reflecting an appropriate balance between these two important concerns will be crafted.

For more information, please visit the Future of Music Coalition’s website.

Laurie Baskin is TCG’s  Director of Government and Education Programs.

  • Someone

    tcg needs to take a more bold, decisive stance on policy issues like this. How do you weigh freedom of speech against marginal losses in entertainment sales. Also, what exactly is being pirated from theatre artists? the pirating issue seems to be more of an issue with hollywood types than live-theatre.

  • Guest

    I don’t see how this is a ‘free speech’ issue.  Free speech is ‘free’ as in ‘freedom’ — the right to criticize and petition the government.  Free speech isn’t ‘free’ as in ‘I don’t want to pay for it’.  

  • envelope

    The problem with this approach is that a) it is easily circumvented, so it will only stop LAW ABIDING citizens with the ‘don’t circumvent this either’ clause, and b) it has ENORMOUS potential to become a mechanism of control, rather than the flowers and hearts bill it is being dressed up and paraded around as by the big name corporations who have an interest in direct control over the freedom of their constituency, er, I mean demographic. 

    By putting this faulty bill into place, you will only punish those citizens who are already obeying the law. Forget the arguments of free speech, and how harmful this will be to social networking (and the positive effects this has), the startups who can’t afford to fight legal battles because one user posts a link in a forum to another site, or the possible, “Oops… it wasn’t really against the law, just against our competitive edge, but we reported it anyway and had it removed for a couple weeks while you floundered and we enjoyed the extra income” scenario – THIS BILL IS FLAWED, AND WILL NOT STOP PIRACY. Do your homework, educate yourselves on the technical aspects – THIS BILL WON’T WORK. Now, we all already know this. It’s been publicized widely. Ask yourself this, and answer honestly – why do *you* think are they still trying to pass it? …

  • No

    BOYCOTT SOPA COMPANIES – FIGHT FOR FREE SPEECH and demand better lawmakers.