Last Updated on July 9, 2022, 9:43 am ET
In 2012, a broad coalition of advocates for an open internet defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Known as SOPA/PIPA, these bills would have required US internet service providers to block internet users in the US from accessing websites accused of hosting infringing content, often in countries where copyrights are difficult to enforce. Advocates contacted Congress via phone and email, and websites went dark, to raise awareness of concerns about the laws’ effectiveness and constitutionality.
Ten years after the defeat of SOPA/PIPA, lawmakers have introduced proposals to address copyright infringement that would similarly result in site blocking and censorship. Senator Tillis’s 2021 Digital Copyright Act (DCA) discussion draft, for instance, would have weakened key provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that libraries rely on (Senator Tillis never introduced the DCA as a bill). More recently, Senator Tillis convened interest groups to explore a solution to offshore commercial-scale piracy. In addition to jeopardizing the open internet as we know it, changes to the US Copyright Act would be ineffective in addressing piracy; most of the websites hosting infringing content are overseas, beyond the jurisdiction of US laws and enforcement.
The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) recommends a new, open approach to addressing overseas infringement: the US government must support balanced copyright frameworks that accommodate digital technology and reflect the needs of local populations. This approach includes encouraging the adoption of limitations and exceptions like fair use, which have the advantage of adapting to new technologies or uses. Over time, these new copyright laws will gain acceptance, leading to voluntary compliance and local efforts to address commercial-scale infringement.
LCA shared this recommendation during Copyright Week and the 10th anniversary of the defeat of SOPA/PIPA, which the ReCreate Coalition and the balanced copyright community recognized this year on January 17–21.