Happy Internet Freedom Day! – But Was SOPA Really Defeated?

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Today is Internet Freedom Day. After historic protests last year SOPA was shelved and the anti-piracy proposal eventually died completely, a big victory for the millions who protested. However, a year later we see that several of SOPA's provisions are being executed nonetheless, without any oversight or complaint from the public.

internet-freedom“The Internet” celebrates the defeat of SOPA and PIPA as “Internet Freedom Day” today.

What started as a small protest movement by activist groups developed into mainstream news when tech giants such as Google and Wikipedia joined in. Exactly a year ago following months of scattered protests there was a massive Internet blackout campaign.

As a result the balance of power tipped, and Hollywood and the music industry were forced into retreat. Soon after both bills were declared dead but that doesn’t mean that the Internet is more free than it was before.

The irony is that many of the things that were so bad about SOPA are now pretty much common practice, without any new laws being passed. Let’s take a look at three key SOPA provisions:

1. SOPA would make it easier for copyright holders to request a court order asking payment providers to stop doing business with rogue websites.

2. SOPA would make it easier for copyright holders to request a court order asking advertising networks to stop doing business with rogue websites.

3. SOPA would make it easier for copyright holders to request a court order asking search engines to stop linking to rogue websites.

Copyright groups took a lesson from the public’s revolt against SOPA and seem to be putting in more effort applying pressure behind the scenes now. Over the past 12 months we’ve seen more anti-piracy efforts than ever before involving payment processors, advertising networks and major search engines.

PayPal for example has stopped providing services to dozens of cloud hosting and Usenet companies. Copyright holders also have private agreements in place with VISA, MasterCard, CTIA, Monitise, PaySafeCard and PhonePayPlus to strangle finances to “unauthorized sites.”

When services clearly promote copyright infringement these actions may be warranted, but this is not always the case.

The same also applies to advertising networks. Various copyright groups have lobbied for a more strict policy against infringing sites, and this has now paid off through private agreements.

Similarly, copyright holders continue to put pressure on Google asking the search engine to do something about the piracy problem. Google is listening, but copyright holders themselves also upped the ante by asking Google to delete more than 50 million web pages from its search engine.

As we can see, these three examples show how copyright holders are successfully pursuing some of the SOPA provisions without any court getting involved. Again, in most cases these actions are most likely warranted, but it also affects legitimate businesses and free speech.

While it’s certainly worth remembering the defeat of SOPA and PIPA, Internet Freedom Day should mostly be a reminder of the threats that still remain. Those who want to take action against some of the current threats are welcome to take a look at the official campaign page.


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