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Amid SOPA Debate, SCOTUS Gives Congress Broad Copyright Power

Publication Date: 
January 19, 2012
Source: 
Thomson Reuters News & Insight
Author: 
Alison Frankel

Executive Director of the Fair Use Project Anthony Falzone spoke with Alison Frankel of Thomson Reuters News & Insight about the Supreme Court's decision to give Congress more power over copyright law through the outcome of Golan v. Holder.

If you hadn't heard of the House of Representatives' Stop Online Piracy Act or the Senate's corresponding Protect I.P. Act before Wednesday, you surely have now, after Wikipedia, Craigslist, and many other Internet information providers went dark in protest of the pending legislation. SOPA and PIPA, as the bills are known, are being pushed by movie studios, publishers, and other copyright holders who want to curb online piracy by overseas websites. But lots of U.S. Internet companies contend that SOPA and PIPA undermine the safe-harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects websites that inadvertently publish copyrighted material.

Among the sites that turned off the lights Wednesday was Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. In a note to followers, the Center's executive director, Anthony Falzone, explained that even as support for SOPA dries up, PIPA still seems to be alive and well, with "dangerous" provisions that "threaten both the universality and the security of the Internet itself."

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Falzone of the Center for Internet and Society told me Thursday that the Court's ruling "is a continuation of the trend in Eldred, in which the Court shows a great deal of deference to Congress's decisions about the scope of copyright and IP laws." I asked if that's bad news for opponents of the proposed anti-piracy legislation. Falzone's answer: "One of the lessons of Golan is, 'Don't wait.' You have to stop the legislation before it gets passed. You have to stop it in its tracks before it gets to the courts."

And as disappointing as the Golan ruling was, Falzone said he was encouraged by the popular uprising against SOPA and PIPA. In the wake of Wednesday's blackout, he said, legislative support for the bills is waning.