The Stop Online Piracy Act; Analysing the Law

This post aims to be an objective analysis of SOPA, as they stand at the time of writing. I will attempt to update this as and if the law progress. Obviously I have no familiarity with US lawmaking, which may be particularly evident in this post.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (Protect-IP Act or PIPA) were introduced into the US House of Representatives and Senate respectively in the summer of 2011. They cover substantially the same material, and only SOPA will be analysed here. As their titles suggest, they are both aimed at reducing or restricting the online infringement of copyright, by targeting certain websites both directly, indirectly and through their financing.

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Measures to Tackle ‘Illegal Sites’

This week the Government published several documents relating to copyright. Most significantly, the IPO released its response to the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth. The Government seems to have accepted most of the recommendations in principle, including the legalisation of format-shifting, but we will not know until later this year (or next year) whether or not this will lead to a change in the law.

One of the most significant changes (particularly given the recent Newzbin2 ruling) was the widely reported announcement by Vince Cable (of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills) that plans to block ‘illegal websites’ were being scrapped. Given the many concerns with web-blocking (some of which I have discussed elsewhere) it is unsurprising that this apparent change in policy has been welcomed by many groups. However, this celebration may be premature as the documents themselves paint a different picture. Read the rest of this entry »

Illegal Sites and Web-blocking

In the last week there have been three stories in the news concerning copyright infringement and “illegal websites”. In each case, a group with an interest in enforcing copyright has called for or announced measures against such websites, but this raises an important question of what makes a website illegal. In terms of copyright infringement this is a very tricky question as there is no easy way to tell whether content or a service is unlawful. Read the rest of this entry »