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Today, we continue our summary of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). For those interested in understanding the law rather than being told to fear it because you should be afraid of it and formulating your own educated opinion, read on. If you choose to fear it after you understand what it contains or if you choose to rally for it, more power to you, just avoid being children in the comments. Today, we will cover the last part of section 103 and finish the first half of the bill (Title I).
Parts 1 and 2 of this summary can be found here and here, respectively. As always, the bill itself, in its entirety, can be found here.
As always, this blog is about the facts of the law, not an interpretation or my opinions on those laws. I have my own opinions, but will do my best to leave them out of the equation.
Also, please make a huge note that when I talk about a copyright owner, it extends beyond movies and games and goes into prescription drugs and other items. I have summarized all of this using the phrase "copyright holders" or a minor variation, which is somewhat inaccurate.
Section 103 (second half)
Subsection d discusses what the court has legal right to order in cases brought up under this bill and the defendant website has been found guilty of copyright infringement. It is of note that these actions are in addition to any actions that can be taken under copyright laws, which must be presented as charges against a defendant separately from these. Also, before continuing, let's remember the actions discussed here are for U.S. based websites, NOT foreign-based websites.
Under this subsection, the court has the right to order payment network providers like Paypal or Visa to make good faith efforts to suspend any transactions involving U.S. customers or customers subject to U.S. law. The court can also order internet advertising agencies to prevent its service from leading to the website, stop providing advertisements on the website and cease all payments to/from the website.
Additionally, subsection d requires that any of those who receive orders from the court who cannot comply for technical reasons supply notice of such problems. If not, the court may order the ad agency or payment service provider to pay damages to the holder of the copyright(s). So long as each entity makes efforts to comply, they cannot be taken to trial or charged with fines or other penalties. They are also immune from any actions made by their customers to get around any added security to prevent these transactions with the website.
The orders as issued by the court may be challenged so that they may be changed or eliminated. These challenges can be made by the copyright holder, the registrant/owner/operator of the website, or anyone served with orders in relation to the case (see the paragraph above). If the court determines, after a challenge has been made, that the website never was or has ceased using or distributing the copyrighted material, the court may rescind or change the orders made to the payment providers and ad agencies. The court also has the right to order payment in consideration if the site was never involved in the distribution of copyrighted material.
This section provides immunity from legal action against websites, domains, payment providers, search engines, etc... that take action before a court order is made against a site dedicated to the theft of U.S. property. So, if Paypal thought Joe's Website was illegally selling copies of Resident Evil 6, they could close the account and cease all transactions and Joe's Website could not sue Paypal.
Section is the same as section 104 except that it provides immunity to the same people for shutting off services to website that deal in goods that endanger public health. Those goods are those that sell prescriptions without a license, selling misbranded or changed prescription medication, or those that do not require a valid prescription.
This section explains that the Attorney General is responsible for making sure recourses are put in place to handle these cases and that guidance can be given to owners of intellectual property and copyrights to stem frivolous charges. Also, it outlines that the Attorney General must keep records and perform studies on the subject matter, reporting the results to Congress no later than 2 years after the act is made law as well as any recommendations for adjustments to it.
This last section of Title I (the first half of the act) explains that an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator will need to put together a report six months after the act is made a law, detailing those foreign held website that have become notorious for the distribution of U.S. property. It must also detail how well the U.S. can rely on foreign governments to assist in pursuing legal action against foreign infringers of copyrighted material (more on this in the very last section of the bill) as well as other significant data related to foreign infringing sites.
Next time, we will begin covering some of the more controversial points of the proposed law. This includes discussions on streaming copyrighted materials, trafficking dangerous goods and services as well as sentencing guidelines including some important changes this bill would make to the sentencing rights found in copyright laws.