House, Senate Versions of Anti-piracy Acts Conflict

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-11-16 Print this article Print


Tech Freedom's Downes, meanwhile, pointed out that simply blocking DNS servers isn't going to work. As any number of people have repeatedly pointed out in recent years, the Internet is sufficiently flexible that there will always be another way to get to material you want. "Block requests for particular domains aren't going to help," Downes explained, "but what it will do is create a splintered version of the Domain Name System. The result is going to be that instead of a relatively unified DNS system, if they make use of this, we'll get a splintered DNS system."

"That's a big problem," Downes said, "It has a huge potential cost to the integrity of the Internet, but it has no benefit. It won't have any benefit to the trademark process."

Downes also pointed out that one provision of the bill would allow anyone to demand that ad networks or payment processors immediately stop doing business with a Website that the letter-writer claims is violating copyrights.

There's no provision that requires the ad network or payment processor to provide notice, no requirement for proof that the person writing the letter actually has a copyright interest. Worse, Downes said, "There's no due process or judicial oversight. The bill gives them immunity if they make a mistake or if the person didn't have any right to do it."

Downes also noted that the criminalization of violations of streaming media copyrights was so extreme that a video of a child singing something like "Happy Birthday" on YouTube could be prosecuted as a felony, and the person posting the video could be imprisoned.

The language of SOPA is so broad, the rules so unconnected to the reality of Internet technology and the penalties so disconnected from the alleged crimes that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use. The bill also has grave implications for existing U.S., foreign and international laws and is sure to spend decades in court challenges.

Fortunately, this is the House version of a Senate bill called the Protect IP Act (S. 968) that is very different. As a result, both bills if passed in something resembling their current states will have to be considered by a conference committee. The resulting merged bills probably wouldn't resemble the current SOPA bill. But the problem with depending on the conference committee is that you never really know what will come out and what else will be slipped into the bill at the last minute.

One can only hope that reason will prevail and kill or modify SOPA before the House passes it.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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