There is a bill that was introduced in the US Senate that could allow Hollywood–or any other content provider–to have a web site shut down due to an accusation of intellectual property theft.
Hollywood and its cronies are pushing this legislation through based upon its need to combat piracy, which is understandable. However, the broad ramifications of Senate bill S 968, called the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 go beyond way beyond protecting Hollywood’s interests. According to an article in Forbes entitled, Don’t Let Hollywood Break the Internet With the PROTECT IP Act!, content providers, including movies studios and other content providers, could have web sites shut down through a mere accusation of copyright infringement. Moreover, any web site providing a link to the accused site could be subject to legal liability.
This piece of garbage legislation reeks of Hollywood special interests attempting to drive short-sighted new laws that give them a broad avenue for abuse. While Hollywood does have the right and perhaps the duty to pursue pirates who steal their movies, they should have no right to shut down any web site without a legal avenue for site owners to respond to accusations and defend their web sites. It appears that this legislation just requires a court order to shut down the site, which makes it very one-sided.
I am particularly disturbed by the fact that the legislation demands that all links and pages in search engine databases to the accused web sites be removed or disabled. While this part of the legislation focuses mostly on social media sites and search engines, most members of social media sites would have no idea if a web site contains stolen content or movies. The real crime would be if this action took place based upon false accusations, because it might forever destroy a site’s ability to rank well with search engines, which would cut off its lifeblood of traffic.
This legislation also gives the US government the right to shut down site that it feels is “dedicated to infringing activities.” Any time the government is given broad powers to shut down a web site it is something that can be subject to abuse.
The Consumer Electronics Association and several other groups are opposing the PROTECT IP Act of 2011. The bill really needs to be more narrowly defined before it is brought to a vote.
There are already laws in the US that allow copyright owners to have an infringing web site shut down without legal action. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is part of an international agreement that already criminalizes copyright infringement. Using this act copyright owners can make a request to hosting companies to remove an infringing web site. The site owner is given a chance to respond to the accusations. In the case with sites that do infringe on intellectual copyrights, most US hosting companies do comply and close down the site. The need for the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 may therefore dubious at best.