Is OPEN Better than SOPA?

    January 30, 2012

During the initial SOPA hearings, the mockery that they were, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, one of the loudest opponents to the Stop Online Piracy Act, suggested an alternative method of regulating the Internet, one both Google and Facebook endorse. Is Wyden’s suggestion — The OPEN (Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade) Act — a satisfactory alternative to the entertainment industry-backed SOPA?

We’ve profiled the OPEN Act when Wyden and Congressman Issa launched the KeepTheWeb#OPEN site/project, but now that SOPA is essentially twitching its remaining lifeforce away, the OPEN Act is becoming a legitimate option, if, for nothing else, because of some well known tech industry giants have endorsed the legislation, meaning it’s highly unlikely these companies would black their services out in order to protest its potential passing.

Aside from Google and Facebook, other notable endorsers of the OPEN Act include Mozilla, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Twitter, all of which opposed both SOPA and PIPA. In fact, these companies formed a consortium of their own to protest the previous Internet regulation bills.

The question is, with the Internet industry giants giving support to the OPEN Act, is it a better alternative? Some, including The Daily O’Collegian, thinks so:

There needs to be clear and sensible legislation protecting the intellectual property of Americans. OPEN is such a bill, for it focuses on illegal activity and does not cause collateral damage to the web.

One of the primary reasons these Internet giants are openly supporting OPEN (pun intended) can be explained quite well with the following excerpt from the bill (PDF) itself:

EXCLUSIONS: An Internet site is not an Internet site dedicated to infringing activity

(i) if the Internet site has a practice of expeditiously removing, or disabling access to, material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity after notification by the owner of the copyright or trademark alleged to be infringed or its authorized representative;

(ii) because the Internet site engages in an activity that would not make the operator liable for monetary relief for infringing the copyright under section 512 of title 17, United States Code; or

(iii) because of the distribution by the Internet site of copies that were made without infringing a copyright or trade mark.

The fact these designations exist at all is what helps separates OPEN from its predecessors, SOPA and PIPA. Another, which was pointed out by the The Daily O’Collegian concerns an allowance for a reasonable amount of time to remove infringing content, something both PIPA and SOPA ignored:

The best solution is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, which is an alternate to SOPA. OPEN has the support of Google and Facebook because it contains exceptions for websites that remove pirated content in a reasonable time. This exemption would allow YouTube, Facebook and many other websites to remain unmolested.

The question is, is the the kind of Internet regulation you’ll embrace, especially if companies like Google and Facebook are offering support? A comment from the DO’C’s article reveals another line of thinking:

Alexander Cardosa
OPEN does not sound any better than SOAP. We have a small part of the economy dictating what is going to happen to the Internet. Its all bad!

Does this sum up your feelings, or does the support Google, Facebook and other industry giants give the OPEN Act the endorsements you need to accept it into your life?