Our Take on SOPA/PIPA

18-Jan-2012

You may have heard that SOPA has been dropped. This is not accurate, it has only been put on hold. It will be back unless we make it clear to our Senators and Representatives that SOPA/PIPA is not acceptable.

Say an indie artist creates a piece of music in which there is a short sample from another copyrighted work. Any party (not just the owner of the original copyrighted work) has the right to file notice with a website's payment processors (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, etc), which gives the payment processors 5 days to stop accepting payments for the site, with no court having had to make a judgement! If the payment processor stops paying within 5 days, they have immunity from court actions even if the site is eventually found not to be infringing. If the processor doesn't stop payments and there is the slightest infringement found, the payment processor will be held liable. You are therefore "guilty before proven innocent".

Furthermore, because SomaFM's pool of streaming servers often includes international servers, we would fall under the DNS-blocking provisions of the act. Someone would be able to have the entirety of SomaFM blocked from the internet via DNS filtering. Not only would this block access to our website, it would block our email as well. We would be totally cut off from communicating over the internet. We would have to hire lawyers to unblock our domain and get our email and website back.

Mind you we are already paying royalties, and in the past how this scenario would work with music is that the owner of the infringed copyright would be able to get a judgement against the person using the sample- typically, they'd be entitled to some or all of the royalties that person received for their infringing song.

But because there is no clear due process, anyone could file a claim that SomaFM (or any internet broadcaster) was playing a song with an uncleared sample in it (or a mashup, or an unauthorized remix) and entirely shut down SomaFM. You can see there is tremendous room for abuse here.

(NOTE: the recently revised SOPA that has been tabled has made a few changes, such as requiring filing of a lawsuit before shutting down access to sites, and has revised the definition of a foreign site to where the domain is registered rather than where the servers are. But the PIPA version still includes all the above scenarios.)



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