With an estimated 7,000 websites, including Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit and Wordpress, threatening to go dark on January 18 in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its companion bill, PIPA, we thought now might be a good time to take a a closer look at bills heading to Congress in the new session.
For that we turn to Jason Mazzone, renowned legal scholar and author of Copyfraud and Other Abuses of Intellectual Property, and a recent piece he wrote for TorrentFreak, which we excert in part here:
"Title I of SOPA (dubbed the E-PARASITE Act) creates a “market-based system to protect U.S. customers and prevent U.S. funding of sites dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” It achieves this by empowering copyright owners who have a “good faith belief” that they are being “harmed by the activities” of a website to send a notice to the site’s payment providers (e.g. PayPal) and Internet advertisers to end business with the allegedly offending site.
The payment providers and advertisers that receive the notice must stop transactions with the site. No judicial review is required for the notice to be sent and for the payments and advertising curtailed—only the good faith representation of the copyright owner. Damages are also not available to the site owner unless a claimant “knowingly materially” misrepresented that the law covers the targeted site, a difficult legal test to meet. The owner of the site can issue a counter-notice to restore payment processing and advertising but services need not comply with the counter-notice.
There is also a catch: a site owner who issues a counter-notice automatically consents to being sued in U.S. courts (a strong disincentive for sites based abroad). With few checks at all, SOPA gives copyright owners a sharp tool to disrupt and shut down websites. Based on their past conduct, there is no reason to think that copyright owners will use this tool with any measure of restraint."