Even though the SOPA and PIPA bills are essentially dead, they are still getting a lot of attention. Last week, the U.S. witnessed a powerful expression from both brands and consumers that demonstrated their strong opposition to the anti-piracy bills.
Did you take part in the protest of the SOPA/PIPA bills? If so, how, and if not, why?
While it doesn’t look like the U.S. will see any legislation regarding online piracy this year, intellectual property attorney Miles Feldman tells us that it is a serious issue.
“It’s really a serious issue because of the volume,” he said. “We have a content industry that’s in trouble, and we have rampant copyright infringement that is going on, and it has decimated the music industry… and is deeply impacting the motion picture and television industry as well as the gaming industry, video gaming industry, and publishing.”
Feldman specializes in media and intellectual property and has personally been involved with litigation involving the Black Eyed Peas, Will Smith, and other high profile personalities. He told us of a recent incident, in which a video game that was just published by one of his clients began appearing on other websites and was available to download. Another site was also involved and, even though it did not make the game available to download, it still contained infringing content.
Since the sites were based in other countries, they couldn’t be effectively sued or shut down. According to Feldman, getting any action done is not only very cost-prohibitive, but it is also nearly impossible.
An option that is often the only alternative and that is non-judicial is the idea of turning the infringing sites into licensed fan sites. Feldman said he used this option with the site that did not include the download.
One of the specific arguments that has risen up against the bills recently is the fact that the Department of Justice shut down MegaUpload, one of the world’s largest file sharing sites, the day after the Internet blackout. Protesters say that, if the DoJ could take down this site, then why is there a need for new legislation?
“What the problem keeps being is it may take years to shut down the offensive site, like it did with MegaUpload, but the infringement continues and the damage continues,” said Feldman.
Even though there is clearly a problem of piracy online, Feldman told us that the SOPA and PIPA bills were not the right solution. He did believe the original purpose of them was well intentioned but said the language of the bills were not clear.
“What this legislation was intended to do was to provide a mechanism very much like the DMCA but with a little bit different of a process,” he pointed out.
However, the bills were written in a way that would put a big burden on companies such as ISPs, financial transaction providers, advertising providers, and more.
“The problem with crafting language and legislation is that it’s an imprecise science, and it has to be done with care,” said Feldman. “The aspects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which work so perfectly are clarity and a procedure, and that’s what we need with respect to foreign sites.”
SOPA and PIPA also called for criminal enforcement, which Feldman believes is a very bad idea.
“I think that it’s a mistake to use criminal law to deal with streaming and to deal with file sharing of content, especially when that could potentially be used by consumers,” he said.
Feldman told us that he would like to see the entertainment and Internet communities come together to talk about how both sides can benefit from legislation.
“What the entertainment industry should do is try to embrace the consumers and try to embrace the technology rather than just trying to control it,” he said.
He went on to say that the attacks that both sides have been making are not all true and that more dialogue was needed to work out the conflicts. If this happens, he believes these groups could create a more current DMCA that embraces the concept of SOPA and PIPA but that has a clause that eliminates a safe harbor for companies who are in compliance with the law.
Another outcome that Feldman potentially sees happening is that, instead of a new piece of legislation being written, the principles that were in SOPA and PIPA could be absorbed in other bills.
While the SOPA/PIPA debate is being celebrated as a victory in the Internet community, there is rising concern over the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Many people believe it would bring the same harm that SOPA and PIPA would have brought in regards to freedom of speech and intellectual property.
“Every time you restrict or you impose copyright regulations, copyright laws under jurisdiction, you’re gonna limit expression – and that is always a concern,” said Feldman.
Incidentally, the European Union signed the agreement into effect this morning.
According to Feldman, the debate surrounding these issues will be around for a while saying, “this drama is still being written.”
What would you like to see result from the anti-piracy debate? Let us know.