No SOPA, But OPEN Maybe?


So, the minions of the Web rose in fury to stymie passage by the United States congress of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, thus ensuring freedom of Internet Service Providers from curtailment of their First Amendment rights. Beneath the blare of the victors’ trumpets, however, the pained cries of piracy victims were completely drowned out.  Does no one speak for them?

A recent editorial in the Sunday New York Times, “Beyond SOPA”, reminds us that some legislators speak for those whose right to earn an honest living has been pillaged by unscrupulous criminal syndicates, some of which are supported by foreign governments. “Piracy by Web sites in countries like Russia and China, which offer high-quality bootleg copies of movies and music, is a real problem for the nation’s creative industries,” said the editorial, pointing to “legislation that could curb the operation of rogue Web sites without threatening legitimate expression.”

The bill the editorial referred to also sports a four-letter acronym, but one that we hope will not be as dirty a word as SOPA.  This one is called OPEN: the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act. Here’s how it is designed to work: “Content owners could ask the International Trade Commission to investigate whether a foreign Web site was dedicated to piracy. The Web site would be able to rebut the claim. If the commission ruled for the copyright holder, it could direct payment firms like Visa and PayPal and advertising networks like Google’s to stop doing business with the Web site.”

The Times thinks that OPEN offers solutions that do not have the same pitfalls as those of SOPA, and we share the editorial’s support. We just wonder, though, why all the attention is focused on foreign pirates when a domestic piracy industry continues to thrive. And why just movies and music? What are we authors – chopped liver?

Richard Curtis

For a complete archive of E-Reads postings on piracy, visit Pirate Central.


One Response to No SOPA, But OPEN Maybe?

  1. Rowena Cherry says:

    Dear Richard,
    You may be fabulously wealthy and able to fly to Washington, hire a Washington lawyer licensed to practise before the ITC, able to pay Washington fees for the Government’s time, and it is no skin off your nose if you have to wait 18 months for a ITC sanctioned Take-Down notice to be sent.

    However, for many authors, musicians, artists and photographers, OPEN is justice only for the wealthy, and it makes justice too expensive for those who most need it.

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