Washington, D.C. -
Lawmakers in congress seemed poised to vote on a procedural vote coming in a few days to approve discussing the fate of SOPA and PIPA, laws that the entertainment industry says are designed to help protect American intellectual property rights but opponents say also bring control, monitoring and burdensome regulation to businesses and consumers.
Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act are two pieces of legislation before congress written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas and co-sponsored by 40 lawmakers originally at the behest of the entertainment industry and their powerful lobbying groups.
Yesterday many internet content providers and service providers "blacked out" their owns sites in protest of the bills. This brought significant attention to the bills that before now, had not received much attention from the public with most not even knowing they existed.
Several members of congress have withdrawn their support of the bills including Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Marco Rubio of R-Florida, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boozman of Arkansas. All cited a flood of emails and telephone calls from constituents from their home territories opposing the proposed laws.
Under the law, in addition to trying to stop piracy by imposing rules on foreign advertisers and content providers, it would also require internet providers to track your activity and IP address and store that information for up to 18 months in some cases and make it available to law enforcement with out a warrant upon request. It would also attempt to control who can advertise, and impose sanctions on providers not complying with the law and leave the arbitrary decision up to the internet provider in some cases.
Supporters of the bill including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, say the bill is too important to put off a procedural vote that is coming in a few days and says he is open to changes to the bill.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a leading opponent of the bills, said the groundswell of opposition to legislation dealing with the esoteric subject of copyright law showed that Americans understand that "while combatting copyright infringement is important, you shouldn't do extensive damage to the Net." He said the protests Wednesday were historic: "In terms of communicating with government the country is never going to be the same."
The bills author, Lamar Smith, say the bill has been mis-characterized and demonized by those wanting no regulation or control and no accountability, and that it's intent to to address foreign entities from copying American intellectual property.
Privacy experts say they are concerned because nothing in the bill would limit just how much and how far an internet provider can go to collect your information without your knowledge then make it available to third parties with out your consent. They also bring up constitutional issues, that you have the right to privacy while in your home. The Supreme Court has held routinely that phone calls from your home require a warrant in order to be tapped or traced in any manner.
Internet giants big and small came out opposing the law and many many very visible protests against it yesterday including Google, Wikipedia, Flickr, Wordpress, Blogspot and hundred more. They say the new law will also require costly expenses to businesses already struggling in a weak economy. Opposition parities have said this amounts to a form of censorship.