First PIPA, then SOPA — Now OPEN?

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Jan 23, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Boy, the Internet itself sure has created a lot of buzz in the last week, hasn’t it?

With protests of  SOPA and PIPA last Wednesday ultimately leading to the shelving of SOPA by its original creator, House Judiciary Committee Chair Representative Lamar Smith, you’d think that the collective “we” had won.

Well, not necessarily.

Though this was seen as a major victory, the very same day these two bills were vehementy protested, a new bill was introduced called OPEN.

What is OPEN?

The OPEN Act, officially introduced last Wednesday to the US Senate by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), is an alternative solution for enforcing stronger intellectual property rights for American artists and innovators while protecting the openness of the Internet.

What makes it different from SOPA and PIPA?

OPEN is different because it puts the ITC in charge of fighting online piracy, not the U.S. Attorney General. It also appears to target mainly foreign-based websites and would not include requiring search engines or Internet Service Providers to cease doing business with potential violators. According to PCWorld’s article, the Act would “include an appeals process, and would apply only to websites that “willfully” promote copyright violation. SOPA and PIPA, in contrast, would enable content owners to take down an entire website, even if just one page on it carried infringing content, and imposed sanctions after accusations — not requiring a conviction.”

How does it work?

According to an InfoWorld article, OPEN would “allow copyright holders to file complaints about copyright infringement at foreign websites with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which would investigate the complaints and decide whether US payment processors and online advertising networks should be required to cut off funding.” If the ITC investigation then finds that a foreign registered website is ‘primarily’ and ‘willfully’ infringing on the IP rights of a US rights holder, the commission would issue a cease-and-desist order that would encourage payment processors and online advertising providers to cease doing business with the foreign site in question. This would cut off financial incentives for this illegal activity and deter these unfair imports from reaching the US market.

Watch out for that old sales trick…

Granted, this new bill is currently backed by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and many others — all of whom were adamantly opposed to PIPA and SOPA. And the bill is openly viewable — and allows for comments from readers — on its website, But I still strongly encourage doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions; don’t just follow blindly based on what others around you seem to agree upon.

Remember in my article last week I mentioned an age-old sales trick? While the OPEN Act may seem like a viable alternative to SOPA and PIPA, take caution — it’s still legislation that seeks to police Internet use and content. Thus, there are still questions that need to be asked and knowledge that needs to be gained. There are some that are not sure that focusing on online piracy in particular is the right approach. Says Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight For the Future, an online advocacy non-profit:

“Where we need to start is actually getting a ‘User’s Bill of Rights’ together for communication and sharing of culture…We need to defend way people communicate online. Once we get that in place, then we can go forth from there.”

Laws are slippery slopes and once put into place they open doors for more and more regulation. Good legislation is possible, but it needs to come from the people and not just from the wants and desires of elected officials looking to make a name for themselves.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.