Anti-piracy Measures Bring Black Wednesday

January 18, 2012 – In The News
The Philadelphia Inquirer

In an effort to stop online piracy, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) have caused an internet frenzy among companies such as Wikipedia and Google.

Although it is against the law for websites to steal material or sell stolen property, it is not a surprise that these rights continue to be violated on the Web.

"It's a pitched battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley," says Scott Vernick. "On the one hand, you have music companies and movie companies, and on the other the big Internet sites."

"Because film and music companies were slow to respond to piracy early on, unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material pretty much destroyed them," says Vernick. "Now they're trying to get that back."

But the vague new laws have many wondering if the Web as we know it would be undermined as sites like Google, Yahoo and YouTube would be "more responsible for the links on their sites," Vernick says.

"People are worried that this law will shut down, or block users from, a whole site for one bad link," Vernick says. "You don't want a sledgehammer when you need a surgical knife."

The laws, which are written extremely vague, do make clear who will monitor these sites and how they will be policed. "And an unenforceable law," Vernick says, "is a lousy law."

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