The American Congress is debatting a bill called Sopa (the Stop Internet Piracy Act). Apparently drawn up by the music and film industries, according to Wikipedia:
The bill would remove the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and make social websites that host user content, such as YouTube, Tumblr and Facebook, responsible for ensuring that their users do not post infringing material. The bill would also make unauthorized streaming a felony. The bill would ban linking to sites deemed offending, even in search results and on services such as Twitter. The bill would mandate use of deep packet inspection by ISPs to watch all traffic of all users.
The bill has been met with massive criticism from the Internet community. Some observers have commented that the only countries with comparable legislation are China and Iran, not exactly regarded as paragons on freedom. In a letter to the committee the American Civil Liberties Union writes:
[T]he bill is severely flawed and will result in the takedown of large amounts of non- infringing content from the internet in contravention of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution…. SOPA enables law enforcement to target all sites that contain some infringing content – no matter how trivial – and those who “facilitate” infringing content. The potential for impact on non-infringing content is exponentially greater under SOPA than under other versions of this bill.
But at the congressional hearing the only opposing voice allowed to speak was Google.
This is legislation would not just affect the United States. As Wikipedia notes:
The first section allows in rem legal action against “foreign rogue sites”, websites outside U.S. jurisdiction that “enable” or “facilitate” copyright infringement. The US Attorney-General could force US-based ad networks such as Google and payment processors such as Paypal or Visa to stop doing business with, and search engines to stop displaying results for, sites found to infringe on copyright. Private copyright holders such as Universal Pictures could also require ad networks and payment processors to stop doing business with a site they say infringes on a copyright.
The Swedish Pirate Party has a single Member of the European Parlament, Christian Engström (he’ll be joined by another Pirate Party MEP when the Lisbon Treaty goes into effect in the new year). I asked him what the EU can do about this legislation which could have such severe effects on European websites. His less than encouraging reply yesterday:
There’s nothing the EU can do directly about the American law. The only thing we can hope to do to help those fighting for the freedom of the Internet in the United States is to provide a good example, by being a “Beacon of Light”.
But there’s a long road if the EU is to be a good example. At any rate so far it has been th EU that had followed The US by importing their restrictions on freedom here. We’ll see how it goes this time.
Yet, that same day the European Parliament passed a resolution oppositing Sopa and stressing:
…the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.
Interestingly, “sopa” is the Swedish word for a mess or garbage.