Today is January 18th.
Observant readers may notice I am a British citizen running a business in the UK.
So why do I care about American laws?
The Stop Online Piracy Act and it’s sister Protect-IP Act is not just an American problem. If these acts go through they have the potential to affect any webmaster who operates a website that allows interaction – in any part of the world. Even here in the good old UK.
I’ve taken these few paragraphs from Mashable, I do urge you to read the whole article. It inclues a link to the legislation (read that too!) Bolded text added by me.
Section 102(a)(2) permits the attorney general to take action against foreign sites (i.e., sites that do not fall under U.S. jurisdiction) if “the owner or operator of such Internet site is facilitating the commission of [copyright infringement].”
We’ll expand on this further down, but the really scary thing here is that there isn’t any qualification that the site be solely for the purpose of theft, only that it facilitate it. Since copyright violation is ridiculously easy, any site with a comment box or picture upload form is potentially infringing. Furthermore, DMCA Safe Harbor provisions are no defense. You, as a site operator, become liable for copyright infringement committed by your users, even if you comply with DMCA takedown requests.
This isn’t quite as bad as the rest of the bill because the power lies with the attorney general, rather than the copyright holder. But it’s not good, either. The language is so broad that it could be wielded against most any foreign site the AG chooses to target.
If the AG chooses to take action against a site (either against the operator, if they are subject to U.S. jurisdiction, or against the site itself if no one under U.S. jurisdiction can be found), then a subsequent court order would require the following:
Internet service providers will be required to block your access to the site (section 102(c)(2)(A)(i)) within five days.
Search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) will be forced to remove all references to the offending sites from their indexes (section 102(c)(2)(B)).
Ad providers (Google AdSense, Federated Media, etc.) will be required to stop providing ad service to the site.
Payment providers (PayPal, Visa, etc.) will be required to terminate service to the site.
Effectively, this bill gives the attorney general the power to fully censor foreign sites that the government does not have jurisdiction to take down directly. The most immediate example is WikiLeaks — under such an order, your ISP would be forced to block your access to Wikileaks. Once the technical means to do this are in place, then it becomes very easy for this power to be extended.
I’m just a little fish in a great big pond. I don’t promote copyright infringement, I don’t show how to copy content or link to sites that offer pirated content. I have nothing to worry about right?
Yes I do…
And you do too.
Simply allowing this piece of very powerful legislation to go through affects everyone who works online – from decreasing web security to potential law suits and effectively strangling our business opportunities.
These Acts will not stop the true pirates and I certainly do not trust the law makers and enforcers with such open ended power. Do you?
SOPA and PIPA have the potential to affect everyone working online, not just the big players. If you are reading this before the Senate votes on the 24th January, please do click on the black ribbon and add your voice to protest. You can do this even outside of the US, there’s a petition part way down the page.Why I Have a Stop SOPA Ribbon on My Website and I am Not American... by Jan Kearney