2 December 2011
Information Freedom: The Ethical Implications of SOPA
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a U.S. House of Representatives bill with the stated purpose, "To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes." (1) SOPA proposes to accomplish those goals by allowing the U.S. Department of Justice and copyright owners to take action against websites thought to be facilitating copyright infringement. What brought SOPA into the limelight is the criteria it uses to determine what a copyright-infringing site is, and the methods it allows to punish those websites. It was drafted with the intention of combating websites that host U.S. copyrighted content, many of which are hosted offshore and outside of U.S. legal jurisdiction; and subsequently focuses on attacking U.S. based internet services that could benefit such ‘rogue sites.’ The sites it targets are defined as being “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” The qualifications for such a site? * It must be directed toward the U.S., and either
* “engage in, enable, or facilitate” infringement; or * take or have taken steps to “avoid confirming a high probability” of infringement These defining attributes are for any portion of a site, even a single page containing infringing material can qualify a site as ‘rogue.’ SOPA then allows a copyright holder who believes their works are being infringed by such a ‘rogue site,’ to send a notice to facilitating services of the site, such as payment processors (e.g., PayPal, Visa), ad networks, and hosting providers. These services must then deliver the notice to the site, and suspend their services; unless the site provides a counter-notice explaining how it is not violating copyright, to be delivered within five days of the original notice. If a counter-notice is supplied by the site, or if the supporting services do not end their...