Introduced within the House of Representatives today, a bill that would give the U.S. Attorney General power to order search engines and Internet service providers to block sites with pirated content was announced by a group of U.S. Representatives. Titled the Stop Online Piracy Act, the bill also gives copyright holders the ability to issue notifications to payment providers like Paypal when a site is selling copyrighted material. They will also be able to sent notifications to companies that specialize in Internet advertising, all without the assistance of a court. Finally, Web sites that make money off selling counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs will be facing much harsher penalties with new rules laid out in the bill.
The initial support of the bill comes from both political parties, but has to pass muster in the House before moving forward to the Senate and ultimately the President. However, this type of legislation isn’t susceptible to party politics as both sides mostly agree on copyright issues. If an ISP or payment provider decides to block access to an offending site, the bill waives all liability and the companies won’t face legal action from the site with copyrighted content or the public. However, if the service provider decides not to comply with any notification received from copyright holders, this bill allows the copyright holder to sue companies like Google and Paypal.
While this bill is receiving support from organizations like the RIAA and the MPAA, tech companies are very concerned that this expanded power may cripple organizations like YouTube. Based on the language in the bill, a single infringement would potentially cause advertisers to pull away from a popular site. There’s also concern that the broad, vague terms in the bill will also cover cloud-based storage, a possible location to store and distribute copyrighted material.