New OPEN Legislation Putting SOPA, PIPA in the Shade

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-01-22 Print this article Print


But the problem with all of these proposals is that they lack any requirement for proof. In some cases, a court order is required, but I don't think it's a secret that some judges can be persuaded to issue such an order on tenuous evidence. In other cases under the proposed legislation, it only requires an assertion. Worse, the site that would be taken down would have little recourse-even if it turned out that the complaint was false, they'd probably be out of business.

In addition to these issues, there is the fact that these laws were proposing to take these actions against a foreign country. Suppose that the material that the person making the complaint in the United States isn't violating the copyright law in the other country? Copyright laws vary from one country to the next and while signatories of copyright conventions agree to honor each other's laws, not every country is a signatory.

One of the countries that is regularly accused of tolerating piracy is China, and while the Chinese government does make copyright-related arrests from time to time, there's a lot of piracy that goes on there. So does this mean that some judge in the U.S. can effectively wage economic warfare on Chinese interests? The way those proposed laws are written, that could happen. And while I realize that the Chinese government already censors U.S. sites, I have a feeling that the State Department might want to have input.

Fortunately, SOPA and PIPA lost much of their support in Congress in the wake of the Jan. 18 Internet protest and are virtually dead, although some of the bills' supporters haven't figured that out yet. Another law, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) was introduced on Jan. 18, the day that Wikipedia and other sites went dark. This bill is said to have been developed in cooperation with the Internet community and would work through the International Trade Commission. The OPEN bill already has more sponsors than SOPA or PIPA, and seems to have a better chance of passage.

The good news about the OPEN bill is that it avoids the unilateral attacks on foreign interests that the previous bills contained. But there are still questions. The most obvious is whether the lobbyists from the film and music industries will support the bill. The second is whether the bill has any chance of passage in a contentious and highly partisan election year. But at least OPEN doesn't appear to wage open trade warfare on other countries, which alone is a major improvement. And best of all, two laws that we didn't need, SOPA and PIPA, are dead. 

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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