Whether the measure becomes law - the bills’ momentum has been stalled by mass online protests - does not erase the fact that the need for stronger anti-piracy legislation remains, say some content makers.
“SOPA is overreaching and needs some work,” said Dunlap, who is chief operating officer of
Media in Las Vegas, which provides video support to independent film makers. “But what’s getting lost is that the protections we have now are inadequate. We’re very frustrated that opponents are guiding the dialogue.”
Some companies that support stronger anti-piracy laws have faced threats after SOPA opponents found them on a widely-circulated Google doc of alleged supporters. The owner of a stock-photography whose name appeared on the list began receiving e-mails like this one:
“I AM INFORMING MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS THAT IF THEY SUPPORT your firm I WILL MAKE LIFE DIFFICULT FOR THEM.”
“Things are getting nasty,” she said in an e-mail interview. She commented on the condition of anonymity to avoid receiving further attacks.
While current copyright law puts the onus on content creators to spot copyright infringement and go after offending Web sites, SOPA and its companion legislation in the Senate called the Protect IP Act would shift the responsibility to search engines and Web sites by allowing the federal government to block sites that host copyright-infringing content. Detractors say that would be unduly burdensome for both large sites and for Web start-ups, and that the bills’ language is open to interpretation on how that would be handled.
“The language around SOPA and PIPA is so vague, it could even apply to sites like Reddit,” said Alexis Ohanian, who co-founded the social-news site Reddit and several other start-ups. Ohanian has been leading the charge against SOPA and PIPA. “When you’ve got legislation written by lobbyists and not technologists, it’s a recipe for very bad things.”
For now, it appears the siege of the Web warriors was successful. The demonstrations, black-outs and viral Web videos have taken SOPA from relatively obscure to wildly unpopular within just a few weeks. The bill’s sponsors have backed away from key provisions, the White House practically denounced it outright, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised the House will not vote on the measure “unless there is consensus on the bill.”
Better than nothing
But while SOPA may veer too close to censorship for comfort, some content creators say it’s still an improvement over current protections. They feel the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which SOPA was intended to replace, is not enough to keep their photography, videos and music off of peer-to-peer sites, where it can be traded freely.