If you haven't heard of SOPA by now, listen up. The United
States has plans to introduce a new Act called SOPA (Stop Online
Piracy Act) in an attempt to combat the infringement of copyrighted
material. However, if passed, it could have serious implications
What will SOPA do?
SOPA would enable intellectual property owners to remove any
'offending' material on any foreign site to which they have
a claim. Whilst this may sound like a good thing, SOPA extends so
far that many are claiming it would impede on free speech and allow
a select few to control what goes on the World Wide Web.
How will it affect you?
If you think SOPA won't affect you, think again. For those
of you that have a website with any US visitors, US hosting, or
simply a connection with any US based website (for example Google)
then you will fall under SOPA's powers.
The interpretation of SOPA is so broad that the smallest
indiscretion could cause your site to be shut down. For example, a
link to a YouTube video with copyrighted content, or a user comment
mentioning copyrighted content could be enough. Worse still, even
if you don't knowingly have 'offending' material on
your site then that could be cause enough. In Australia
commentators and politicians are wary of the effects. Scott Ludlam,
Greens Party communications spokesperson further explains the
effects and said "under SOPA, US courts could bar online
advertising networks and payment facilitators from doing business
with allegedly infringing websites, bar search engines from linking
to such sites and require internet service providers [ISPs] to
block access to such sites."
For many, there is also the concern that if the US introduces
SOPA, other countries will follow suit. Each country's
interpretation of "inappropriate material" could vary
greatly. If SOPA and SOPA-like laws are introduced, then the
backlash could be catastrophic for some businesses and potentially
for free speech in general.
At present, the Government has made it clear that it does not
plan its own version of SOPA.
The Attorney General has stated that it should be up to content
owners and ISP's to work together to develop a suitable
outcome. This comes off the back of the recent case between iiNet
and a number of film studios, where the Court found that iiNet was
not at fault for copyright infringement of its users (
see previous article).
Despite this, the relief won't last long if the US does
decide to introduce SOPA, which in itself could cause serious
implications for anyone who uses the internet.
What you can do
If you're concerned about SOPA your first step should be to
ask yourself how much of your business is tied to the US. Should
you wish to discuss how you or your business may be affected by
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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