Internet vs. The Alphabet

By now, likely no one under the age of 80 has escaped a certain four letter acronym– SOPA. Introduced into Congress in October of 2011, the Stop Online Piracy Act was met with instant backlash from the tech-savvy down to the common man.Though we’ve all likely heard of the bill, some may not “get it,” or have been given the opportunity to see what those letters mean. In short, SOPA was designed to protect the rights of industry from online piracy – a company like Paramount, for example, would fall under its protection. SOPA is aimed largely at combating the widespread ring of foreign-hosted domains that serve as hubs to download illegal content. Under the bill, those who are victimized by a site (Paramount seeing that one of their movies is being downloaded illegally at a high rate) may submit in writing a formal notice of infringement to the ‘payment facilitator’ of the website in question. Should the site not cease, the victim may sue the site holder. Additionally, the site would face removal from search engine results and would be blocked by internet service providers (ISPs). The last amendment to the bill in December only includes non-US sites as potential targets of action. The bill has since been pulled by Rep. Smith until there is “wider agreement on a solution.”

Enter the ACTA – the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. With origins dating back to 2006, the proposed agreement has a few years under its belt. Developed by Japan and the US, ACTA would aim to protect intellectual property through its network of multi-national members. Briefly, ACTA would require ISPs to disclose the information of accused sites to the copyright holders for retaliatory action. In the US, ACTA is viewed as an “Executive Agreement,” not a treaty, thus giving the President the ability to bypass the Senate entirely.

With SOPA seemingly canned, the issues that I see with ACTA are not in the attempt to combat online piracy, but in how ACTA came to be. Many view the negotiation and building of ACTA to have been too shady and mysterious, only coming to public light after a classic Wikileaks discovery. Additionally, the decision to view ACTA as an executive agreement removes the necessity of the Executive branch to receive a 2/3 majority Senate vote for approval. For an international agreement dealing with internet commerce, I’d like to see the congressional input included.

What do you think about the currently shelved Stop Online Piracy Act, and the momentum-gaining Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement? Is ACTA just another way for copyright holders to work around the legislative process?

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