The last month or so has seen a flurry of anti-piracy, online infringing, copyright-related bills. The latest newcomer is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act or OPEN Act (S. 2029). Introduced on December 17, 2011 by Sen. Wyden (D-OR), along with Senators Moran (R-KS) and Cantwell (D-WA), the OPEN Act is being heralded as a more palatable alternative to existing anti-piracy bills — The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 or PIPA (S. 968), and The Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA (H.R. 3261).
All three bills take aim at any website beyond U.S. borders that distribute counterfeit or copyright infringing products. To capture how all three bills compare and contrast, I’ve constructed the PIPA, SOPA and OPEN Act Quick Reference Guide (pdf). Not meant to be comprehensive (it would be pages and pages), nor too legalese (I’m a librarian, not a lawyer — although I did consult our legal consultant), the chart helps depict the nuanced and not-so-nuanced differences among the bills.
What you’ll see (hopefully at a glance), is unlike PIPA or SOPA, the OPEN Act focuses solely on curbing online infringement by cutting off websites’ payment processing and ad networks. In contrast, PIPA and SOPA go further in that they also incentivize internet companies to cut off access to websites. The tactics the latter two bills employ have a potential chilling effect on 1st Amendment free speech rights and intellectual freedom, as well as weaken cyber security, and threaten privacy.
Also, the guide captures the status of the bills as of today, January 10. It is worth noting that the bills are in the midst of the legislative process — the U.S. House Judiciary committee will resume markup of SOPA on January 17th and the U.S. Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on PIPA for January 24th. In addition, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Issa (R-Calif.) announced a hearing has been scheduled for January 18th on the potential impact of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocking.
The ALA will continue to voice strong opposition to PIPA and SOPA, while further analysis of the OPEN Act is needed.