Anti-piracy law: Halted due to a lack of consensus

“We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cyber security risks or undermines the dynamic, innovate global internet,” said, among other things, the press release issued by the White House a few days ago.The Barack Obama administration recognises in the published statement the importance of stopping piracy without disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.

It is important to remember that not only the government has withdrawn its support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa); big companies like Facebook and Google have also expressed their opposition to the nature of the project from the beginning. On the other hand, Apple and Microsoft, who originally backed the bill, have withdrawn their support after seeing the reaction of users against the bill’s supporters. 

Little by little the bill, which according to its backers was only created to stop online piracy, lost momentum and supporters, resulting in its suspension until it gains the support necessary to continue. Congressman Lamar Smith, author of the bill, has stated that Sopa satisfies the needs of the Obama administration, and assures that an article requiring Internet service providers to block to access to overseas websites which offer pirated content will be removed from the bill. Will this be enough to obtain the necessary support?

Necessary changes

There still remain some thorny points in the bill: the nature of the user is put at risk. Various Internet sites will have to control things exhaustively, on the look out to police the sharing of content that infringes copyright laws. The introduction of the law will undoubtedly mean less results for each Google search, and sites such as Wikipedia, which is put together in a collective fashion, will have many limits on the generation of information, given that any company that sues for copyright violation in a link in any of its content, will be able to ask for the site to be blocked. It is simple to block a site, only a complaint is necessary to leave it outside the online world.

Online Reaction

The halting of the bill put a brake on the feared reaction: big internet sites had announced an Internet ‘blackout’, meaning the suspension of services for a day as a form of protest against the new law. The action would have had a big impact all around the world given that in 20 years the Internet has become a fundamental part of the market and the lives of its users.

With the looming threat of the blackout, the promoters of Sopa are looking for a way to get the bill back on track and win support, not just from the big record and movie companies, which up until now hasn’t been enough to keep it moving through Congress. The changes that they make to the bill depend on their not failing in the attempt again. Online piracy should be controlled without affecting users, can they do it?