By Reece Flexner
The big news in the tech world today is the House Judiciary Committee hearing on HR 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
The bill would give the Attorney General the power to seek court orders against foreign-based websites that violate US copyright law, and are otherwise out of US jurisdiction. The court orders would prevent ad and payment networks, like Paypal and major credit cards, from doing business with such websites. The court orders would also prevent search engines from linking to these sites, and mandate that internet service providers cut off access to the sites. SOPA would also allow copyright owners to seek similar court orders against US-based websites, who would be responsible for filing counter-claims to prove their innocence.
This hearing involves the committee opening up the floor for people to voice concerns and suggest amendments to the bill, followed by a vote on whether or not to send the bill to the entire House, who would then vote on whether or not to pass the bill into law. The bill has co-sponsors in both parties, and has sparked much discussion and controversy, with many digital giants such as Google weighing in.
SOPA also has language similar to the “anti-streaming” bill from earlier in the year. It would make a much more severe offense of streaming content that violated US copyrights more than ten times in 180 days and had a value of over $1000. Doing so would now be punishable by up to five years in prison. This is especially relevant to gamers, as the copyright to most game content is owned by the developers of the game. Disturbingly, it remains somewhat unclear the extent to which streaming gameplay would be covered under this provision.