Stop Online Piracy Act in Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Thus the workings of the bill should it become law could also be frustrated by numerous demonstrations carried out by Americans unhappy with the utilization of their tax dollars. Also, given other more important priorities, I doubt whether the government would be willing to expend enormous resources to make such a law fully functional. Hence in my opinion, resource constraints may end up frustrating SOPA's resolve to address online piracy and intellectual property theft.

It can also be noted that SOPA could end up being an exercise in futility given the internet's numerous data sharing avenues. Today, unlike 10 years ago, advancements in technology have made it possible for individuals to share and exchange data over a wide range of platforms including but not in any way limited to E-mail, instant messaging etc. Using these channels, users from all over the world can easily exchange data (including copyrighted material) undetected. In my opinion, it would be hard for the government to effectively supervise all the avenues of the internet to enhance compliance with SOPA provisions. Further, closely related to this, it is also important to note that trying to reign in on websites infringing on copyright laws could have the effect of shifting such activities underground far away from the enforcer's radar. For instance, such an action would occasion the establishment of numerous BitTorrent communities and forums that are both invite only and private. With this, the very purpose of SOPA would be defeated hence rendering the bill ineffective.

Counter Arguments

Even though the points I highlight above allude to the ineffectiveness of SOPA as far as addressing online piracy and intellectual property theft is concerned, it would be prudent to take into consideration some of the arguments put fourth by proponents of SOPA and why the said arguments are largely invalid. To begin with, proponents of this piece of legislation are concerned that with the current legal framework in place; entrepreneurs, authors as well as inventors in America could continue losing out to infringers both in and outside the country. Those supporting SOPA are of the opinion that the U.S. laws in place currently are ineffective when it comes to dealing with infringers and hence there exists a need to revamp existing laws so as to ensure that American producers as well as creators of products and services, research pieces as well as new writings are encouraged through economic incentives. One of the avenues utilized by copyright holders currently to counter copyright infringement is the DMCA warning. However, as Stegmaier notes, "in sum, the DMCA is broken, and it needs to be fixed" (70). As I have already pointed out elsewhere in this text, DMCA protects websites against any liability provided that such websites take the necessary action upon receipt of what is referred to as a takedown notice. In fact, as per the provisions of DMCA, an infringement concern need not go to court unless there is a disagreement of sorts i.e. between an individual or organization alleging copyright infringement and the up-loader of the infringing material who is also allowed to file a counter-motion if he or she is convinced that no copyright has been infringed. Why in my opinion SOPA cannot be considered a more powerful extension of DMCA is because it tries to solve the problem of piracy using weaker approaches. I remain convinced that the vague wording of the bill as well as the lack of consensus amongst key stakeholders could frustrate the effectiveness of SOPA thus making it more ineffective than the legal provisions already in place.

Secondly, the ineffectiveness of DMCA according to proponents of SOPA further arises from its inability to rein over foreign infringers. Hence those pushing for SOPA argue that the same saves the situation by giving copyright holders the necessary legal tools to stop entities in the U.S. from dealing in any way with foreign websites engaging in intellectual property theft. Hence one of the key goals of the bill in this case remains the protection of copyright owners from infringers who are currently beyond the reach of existing legal provisions. The idea here is to discourage entities from "facilitating" copyright infringement. However, this approach is not workable as it is in one way or the other irreconcilable with a wide range of valid issues raised by stakeholders in the industry. For instance, according to Pepitone, what stakeholders are objecting to is the bill's approach which appears to be more of "shoot first, ask questions later" (n.p.). It is also important to note that even if the proposed piece of legislation was to become law, reining in on rogue foreign websites could become a tall order. For instance, were the U.S. search engines to be compelled to make it impossible to link to websites in foreign countries, what would keep a determined user from accessing the said foreign site from a non-U.S. search engine? Further, there are also those who will possibly remain outside the United States jurisdiction i.e. foreign registrars. To defeat the very purpose of SOPA, owners of infringing websites could still have an option of moving their sites to these registrars.


In conclusion, it is clear from the arguments I present above that in the long-run; SOPA is ineffective in addressing the issue of piracy. In its present composition, the draft even if it became law would do little to deter infringing websites. In my opinion, a long-lasting solution to the problem of piracy can only be reached by taking into consideration all the suggestions, concerns as well as arguments of various stakeholders into consideration. This is especially the case given the need to ensure that the internet is protected from retrogressive laws that stifle its very dynamism and innovation. It is only through such an approach that the government can succeed in ending intellectual property theft while at the same time preserving the internet's key role as a global economic driver.

Works Cited


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