By James Kwak
As you may have noticed by now, Wikipedia’s English-language site is (mostly) down for the day to protest SOPA and PIPA, two draconian anti-copyright infringement laws moving through Congress, and Google’s home page looks like this:
Under existing law (the DMCA), if someone posts copyrighted material in a comment on this blog, the copyright holder is supposed to send me a takedown notice, after which point I am supposed to take the material down (if it is in fact copyrighted).
SOPA and PIPA are bills in the House and Senate, respectively, that make it much easier for “copyright holders” (like the big media companies that back the bill—or, come to think of it, authors like me) to take action not only against “bad” web sites that make copyrighted material available (against the wishes of the copyright holders), but also against web sites that simply link to such “bad” web sites. For example, the copyright holder can require payment network providers (PayPal, credit card networks) to block payments to such web sites (in either category above) and can require search engines to stop providing advertising for such web sites—simply by sending them a letter. That’s SOPA § 103(b).*