The internet makes sharing information quick and easy, but sometimes it also facilitates the spread of misinformation. Such is the case with HR 3261, the Stop Internet Piracy Act (“SOPA”).
Let me take a quick moment and point out that I do not support SOPA. Erick Erickson wrote a post last week that lays out some of the main problems with the bill, but the short story is that it gives too much power to a government agency without proper safeguards to protect free speech.
I have seen some chatter online this month criticizing Senator Marco Rubio for supporting SOPA, but this criticism is misdirected. Part of the confusion seems to stem from Rubio’s co-sponsorship of a separate bill in the Senate, S. 968, the Protect IP Act.
The Protect IP Act does allow the Attorney General to pursue action against websites that commit infringement of intellectual property rights, but there are several key restrictions in the grant of this power. First, the Act targets only “nondomestic domain names” (see Section 2(9) for definition), so no American-hosted website could be affected.
Second, the Act only allows action against websites that are “dedicated to infringing activities” (see Sections 2(7)(A) and (B)) or, in other words, websites that have “no significant use other than engaging in, enabling, or facilitating” copyright infringement, selling or distributing counterfeit goods, etc. Note also that the Act cites existing copyright laws and standards, meaning that the already-established standards for fair use and other limitations on copyright law apply in this situation.