Category Archives: SOPA

Tennessee Senators Alexander and Corker Signal Willingness to Back Off SOPA/PIPA as Currently Written

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In case you’ve been living in a cave, parts of the Internet went radio silent yesterday in protest of SOPA ( the “Stop On-Line Piracy Act”). Google “censored” its own logo and Wikipedia went down completely as expressions of these Internet giants’ opposition to the bill.  Due to all the brouhaha, U.S.  Senators from Tennessee, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander issued statements on Wednesday that basically cried “uncle” and indicated that they are open to revising the controversial anti-piracy legislation that touched off the blackout and Internet firestorm. The two Tennessee Republicans are cosponsors of the Protect IP Act (“PIPA”)(the House version of the bill is SOPA), which would prevent US Internet users from accessing foreign-based rogue websites that illegally copy or show films, recordings, and other intellectual property.

The SOPA and PIPA bills would try to snuff out these overseas piracy sites by exerting leverage on companies doing business in the United States that would be subject to US jurisdiction. For example, the acts would force American ISPs to block the domain names (for example, “piracy.com”) of overseas piracy sites. They’d allow the government to sue American sites like Google and Facebook, and even blogs, to remove links to the piracy sites. And they’d give the government the right to cut off the piracy sites’ funding, such as forcing American payment companies (like PayPal) and advertisers to cut off the foreign accounts. Most of the opposition stems from fears that the ISP’s would be subject to liability for accidentally hosting pirated content or legitimate sites could be taken down by mistake without sufficient due process and their only recourse would be expensive litigation after their business has been destroyed by an improper take-down.

The protest has had its desired effect. The bill’s sponsors are backing off the legislation in its current form. Although Corker is a sponsor of the Senate bill, “he has always understood that there remained issues to be resolved before Protect IP was ready to become law,” said his chief of staff, Todd Womack.

“Though the bill being considered will likely not come to a vote in its current form, he hopes ongoing negotiations result in legislation that also stops foreign websites dedicated to stealing and profiting off the intellectual property of Americans, protects free speech, and fosters commerce and innovation on the Internet,” Womack said.

Alexander issued a similar statement.

“I am a cosponsor of the Protect IP Act because it will protect the rights of musicians, artists, and others from illegal foreign websites dedicated to copyright infringement,” the senator said. “I look forward to improving the bill to address legitimate concerns raised about it.”

Because Tennessee is home to the “Third Coast,” and “Music City,” Tennessee legislators are understandably supportive of measures to protect the IP of its many musicians, artists and film makers. Hopefully Senators Alexander and Corker will be able to fashion legislation that will take into account the concerns of the bills’ opponents, while still discouraging and punishing the infringers, counterfeiters, and pirates. It will be interesting to see what happens next. Many people are proposing alternative approaches. But for now, SOPA, at least in its current form, is as dead as Wikipedia was yesterday afternoon when I needed a quick and dirty survey of Anti-Slapp legislation.

Music Row Companies Spend Big Money On Lobbying to Promote Legislation that Protects Intellectual Property Rights

According to the Tennessean, Music Row business have spent close to $4 million dollars in the last three months lobbying Tennessee politicians like Bob Corker, Marsha Blackburn, and Jim Cooper for help on industry-friendly IP initiatives such as the Performance Rights Act (which would expand the royalties available for radio play), the Songwriters Tax Simplification Reauthorization Act (a bill for songwriters which simplifies their taxes), and the controversial  Stop Online Piracy Act or (“SOPA”)(the Senate version is called Protect IP). The entertainment industry originally tried to fight piracy by filing lawsuits against illegal down-loaders, but this ended up as a public relations debacle and did little to curb infringement. Consequently, the industry is now targeting its money and its efforts towards promoting legislation like SOPA, which the industry views as a reasonable and necessary weapon to protect IP rights. This route has its own challenges–much of the technology sector and Internet titans like Google and Facebook hate the bill and the fight will undoubtedly get bloody. It remains to be seen what we will end up with in the ever-shifting landscape that is modern copyright law.