The digital anti-piracy laws: a breakdown

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Amid worldwide protests and crumbling support, the fates of digital anti-piracy measures remain uncertain.

Saturday, thousands across Europe protested the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a multinational treaty geared to increase enforcement of copyright laws across borders and on the Internet. Wednesday, Bulgaria became the sixth country to delay ratification of ACTA.

Similar U.S. bills, the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, were postponed last month after widespread online protests. But free speech advocates remain wary.

“The bills aren’t dead yet, not at all,” said Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online advocacy group.

There could still be scheduled votes or amendments to the existing bills, or they could return in different forms under new names, she said.

Recently, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced to Congress the Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act  as a SOPA and PIPA alternative.

Major websites like Reddit, Google and Wikipedia oppose the bills.

“Those pieces of legislation will cripple the Internet,” said Quin Stack, a Reddit user.

But they are supported by Hollywood companies and some in Congress, including Minnesota Sen. Al Franken.

In a statement to the Minnesota Daily, Franken defended his support of PIPA.

“I understand as well as
anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence,” Franken said. “We cannot simply shrug off the threat of online piracy. We cannot do nothing.”

The Recording Industry Association of America reported that the music industry loses about $12.5 billion each year to piracy.

Franken said there is a lot of “misinformation” about PIPA circulating among his constituents.

“If this bill really could do some of the things people have heard it would do … I’d never support it,” he said.

SOPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act targets overseas websites that provide illegal downloads (think Pirate Bay). SOPA would require U.S. search engines, like Google, to block those websites from their results. Google wouldn’t be able to show flagged websites, and eBay and PayPal wouldn’t be allowed to transmit funds to them.

Opponents of the bill claim SOPA promotes online censorship. Web giants like Google and Wikipedia say the bill would force them to police their websites and hold the companies responsible for the actions of their users.

Status:

Postponed

PIPA

The PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) is a proposal to give the U.S. government and copyright holders new powers to block websites that provide counterfeit or pirated content, especially those outside the country.

It restricts access to websites hosting pirated materials and blocks their domain names. For instance, if the Minnesota Daily’s website was blocked under PIPA, readers looking for mndaily.com would not find it. It would also require search engines to strike the website from its results. The only way to reach the blocked website would be through its IP address.

Status:
Postponed

ACTA

The multinational treaty Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement would be an attempt to combat trafficking of counterfeit goods and to target online copyright infringement using methods similar to SOPA and PIPA.

ACTA came to public attention in May 2008 when documents mentioning the treaty were uploaded to WikiLeaks. The U.S. signed the treaty in October 2011, along with Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Status:
Signed; full ratification delayed

OPEN

The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act was introduced as an alternative to SOPA and PIPA.

Supported by Google and Facebook, OPEN would block payment services and advertisers to piracy websites. It doesn’t require search engines to blacklist or block sites for U.S. users. Also, responsibility to enforce the law is given to the International Trade Commission instead of the U.S. Justice Department. The bill’s congressional supporters are crowdsourcing the legislation by allowing people to suggest changes on a special website.

Status:

In congressional committees

TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free-trade agreement with intellectual property provisions drafted by the U.S. The TPP agreement would export rules similar to U.S. digital copyright law to Australia, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam.

A leaked version of the February 2011 draft of the U.S. intellectual property rights chapter outlines copyright measures that are more restrictive than those found in ACTA.

Status:

In international negotiations