Online, considerable anger over Stop Online Piracy Act

The Takeaway

Story from The Takeaway. Listen to the above audio for a complete report.

The Internet is abuzz with anger over two bills winding their way through the U.S. Congress.

The first, which has passed a Senate committee is the PROTECT IP Act. The second, which is being hotly debated in the House of Representatives, is SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.

The two bills have put some of America’s largest and most recognized businesses in opposition. Companies like Google, Facebook and Tumblr think the bills will stifel innovation and undermine the Internet. On the other side are companies like Microsoft, Viacom and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Maria Pallante, United States Copyright Office director, testified before Congressional committees that were considering the bill. Pallante said the likelihood and ease of copyright infringement on the Internet is pretty dramatic.

“Every time the Internet creates a new platform or a new business platform for copyright holder, it also creates an opportunity for an infringer,” she said.

As an example, Pallante cited, a website seized recently by the Department of Homeland Security for streaming movies that were still out in theaters. It and other that stream live sporting events were seized recently by the federal government. The new laws would make that easier and could, potentially, give the power to seize an entire domain, or at the very least take it off-line, with the entity, like Viacom, whose copyright is being infringed.

That doesn’t sit well with Tumblr CEO David Karp.

Tumblr is a micro-blogging service that allows anyone to setup and beging posting on its website. As the laws are written, a copyright owner could have Tumblr shutdown because a single Tumblr user posted a photo that is protected by copyright.

“The issue is now they’re going to be able to take our entire site down and all the legitimate content down along with it, with the same level of haste that they’re able to very effectively and very surgically take down infringing content right now,” he said.

Karp said the laws, as written, would dramatically undermine the entire function of the Internet, when, in reality, there are systems in place now that have been effective in reducing access to pirated materials.

But proponents say that piracy is already costing American jobs and if action isn’t taken immediately, more jobs will be at risk.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the PROTECT IP Act had been approved by the Senate.


“The Takeaway” is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

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