THE SAGA OF SOPA: Part 2 of 2 covering the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act

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By Calder Phillips-Grafflin

In light of an extraordinary turnout on the internet, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act have been at least indefinitely stalled and at most killed permanently. More than 100 thousand websites protested in some way or another, and it paid off in millions of petition signatures and Tweets.

It’s likely the largest online protest in history, and it has completely changed the momentum of the debate on copyright enforcement. Those millions of signatures (and probably millions of calls, emails, and physical mail) completely undermined support for SOPA and PIPA, with dozens of members of Congress changing sides to the opposition.Even the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) Chris Dodd, who had previously attacked the protests as “…an abuse of power,” was forced to admit the size and power of the opposition to the bills.

In an odd conclusion to a day of protest and action, the Federal government, in concert with police agencies across the globe, cracked down on the popular file hosting and sharing website Megaupload. For years Megaupload has claimed that infringing content was only a small fraction of all the content they hosted and that they provided ‘robust’ tools for copyright holders to request the takedown of infringing content, which, in theory, would give them protection under the DMCA “safe harbor” rules.

Aside from the unfortunate timing, what’s odd about the seizure of Megaupload is that it serves to perfectly illustrate the function of the current system of anti-piracy enforcement. It’s what the DMCA was designed to do: allow the takedown and seizure of infringing websites with some due process involved, and it illustrates that SOPA and PIPA aren’t needed to take down infringing websites.

While SOPA and PIPA may be the public face of the campaign for stricter copyright enforcement, there are a number of other pieces of legislation worthy of attention. In Europe, a number of countries are currently going through the process of adopting the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and in the US, the same legislators who sponsored SOPA are pushing forward with the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011.We’ve covered ACTA in the past; it’s designed to bring DMCA-style enforcement to foreign countries. We’ll be covering the ‘Protecting Children’ Act and the OPEN Act aimed at reforming copyright enforcement in the coming weeks.

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