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New House Bill Could Kick You And Your Website Off The Internet

Publication Date: 
October 27, 2011
Marketplace Tech Report (Radio)
John Moe

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted in the below Marketplace article regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act and how it “allows the government to shut down someone's access to the Internet.”

Anti-piracy legislation is nothing new in Washington. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill just last spring, and although there is nothing on the president's desk just yet, there seems to be a push to give law enforcement more muscle to go after people who post unlicensed content.

The Stop Online Piracy Act also goes by another name: The E-PARASITES Act. It stands for Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation Act. If it passes, that muscle would certainly be available.

Mark A. Lemley is a professor at Stanford Law School and director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science, and Technology. He says, "What's remarkable about this provision is that it would allow the government and in many cases private parties to come into court, get a temporary restraining order without the participation of the accused website and shut down not just the infringing material, but the whole website."

So the site would be shut down without the accused even being convicted. Furthermore, the person running the site would be in trouble too. The bill, says Lemley, "allows the government to shut down someone's access to the Internet. Not in the kind of classic sense of cutting someone off from their Internet service provider, but actually requiring every Internet service provider and every search engine to blacklist you, to put you on a list that they won't send packets to your Internet address."

So who exactly would get nailed here? The bill is kind of vague about that. One paragraph in a 79-page write-up saying you mustn't infringe on copyright or facilitate infringement. Facilitate? Like links? Lemley says, "The United States government in a pending case is taking the position that anybody who links to a website where there is infringing material is engaged in facilitation of copyright infringement. If the government continues to take that position, Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube -- all sites that exist at the sufferance of the U.S. government -- because they're all sites that link to and therefore in the government's view 'faciliate' copyright infringement."