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Opinion & Commentary, What We're Reading

Today the House Judiciary Committee is debating SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act (also known as H.R. 3261). The bill would allow rights holders and the US Department of Justice to take legal action against websites alleged to be facilitating copyright infringement. Here are a two recent opinion pieces on SOPA and its potential effect on content producers and consumers:

Marvin Ammori, “Should Copyright Be Allowed to Override Speech Rights?,” The Atlantic

…Congress is considering passing major legislation to change the definitions of online infringement. While supposedly aimed at foreign “rogue sites” like the Pirate Bay in Sweden, the legislation’s new definitions would alter the copyright safe-harbor and make platforms for user-generated speech — including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — liable for copyright infringement committed by users. These sites would have to adopt Big Brother technologies to monitor all their users’ activities in order to make sure no user is sharing the latest release from the Twilight series.

Cory Doctorow, “Copyrights vs. Human Rights,” Publishers Weekly

What’s wrong with SOPA? For starters, SOPA would create a new standard for “intermediary liability,” in other words, liability borne by companies and entities that are in the chain between someone accused of violating copyright and the audiences, such as Web hosts, payment processors, and operators of technical infrastructure, like the Domain Name System. Under SOPA, these intermediaries could be ordered to censor or block access to, and funding for, any site accused of copyright infringement, without due process, without a jury or the right to rebut accusations.

To learn more about SOPA and how this story is progressing, take a look at #SOPA on Twitter.

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