H.R. 3261 (112th): Stop Online Piracy Act

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was a controversial United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to combat online copyright infringement and online trafficking in counterfeit goods. Provisions included the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and web search engines from linking to the websites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the websites. The proposed law would have expanded existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Proponents of the legislation said it would protect the intellectual-property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and was necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign-owned and operated websites. Claiming flaws in present laws that do not cover foreign-owned and operated websites, and citing examples of active promotion of rogue websites by U.S. search engines, proponents asserted that stronger enforcement tools were needed. The bill received strong, bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and the Senate. It also received support from the following organizations: Fraternal Order of Police, the National Governors Association, The National Conference of Legislatures, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, The National Association of Attorneys General, the Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, the AFL–CIO and 22 trade unions, the National Consumers League, and over a hundred associations representing industries throughout the economy which claim that they are being harmed by online piracy.

Opponents claimed that the proposed legislation threatened free speech and innovation, and enabled law enforcement to block access to entire Internet domains due to infringing content posted on a single blog or webpage. They also claimed that SOPA would bypass the "safe harbor" protections from liability presently afforded to websites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Some library associations also claimed that the legislation's emphasis on stronger copyright enforcement would expose libraries to prosecution. Other opponents claimed that requiring search engines to delete domain names violated the First Amendment and could begin a worldwide arms race of unprecedented Internet censorship.

On January 18, 2012, the English Wikipedia, Google, and an estimated 7,000 other smaller websites coordinated a service blackout, in protest against the bill. Wikipedia said more than 162 million people viewed its banner. Other protests against SOPA and PIPA included petition drives, with Google stating it collected over seven million signatures, boycotts of companies and organizations that support the legislation, and an opposition rally held in New York City.

In response to the protest actions, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated, "It's a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users and arm them with misinformation", and "it's very difficult to counter the misinformation when the disseminators also own the platform."

Access to websites of several pro-SOPA organizations and companies such as RIAA, CBS.com, and others was impeded or blocked with denial-of-service attacks which started on January 19, 2012. Self-proclaimed members of the "hacktivist" group Anonymous claimed responsibility and stated the attacks were a protest of both SOPA and the United States Department of Justice's shutdown of Megaupload on that same day.

Some opponents of the bill support the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) as an alternative. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill: "The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation ... The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution."

This summary is from Wikipedia.

Last updated Jan 23, 2017. Source: Wikipedia

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.


10/26/2011--Introduced. Stop Online Piracy Act - Authorizes the Attorney General (AG) to seek a court order against a U.S.-directed foreign Internet site committing or facilitating online piracy to require the owner, operator, or domain name registrant, or the site or domain name itself if such persons are unable to be found, to cease and desist further activities constituting specified intellectual property offenses under the federal criminal code including criminal copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation and trafficking of sound recordings or videos of live musical performances, the recording of exhibited motion pictures, or trafficking in counterfeit labels, goods, or services.

Sets forth an additional two-step process that allows an intellectual property right holder harmed by a U.S.-directed site dedicated to infringement, or a site promoted or used for infringement under certain circumstances, to first provide a written notification identifying the site to related payment network providers and Internet advertising services requiring such entities to forward the notification and suspend their services to such an identified site unless the site's owner, operator, or domain name registrant, upon receiving the forwarded notification, provides a counter notification explaining that it is not dedicated to engaging in specified violations. Authorizes the right holder to then commence an action for limited injunctive relief against the owner, operator, or domain name registrant, or against the site or domain name itself if such persons are unable to be found, if: (1) such a counter notification is provided (and, if it is a foreign site, includes consent to U.S. jurisdiction to adjudicate whether the site is dedicated to such violations), or (2) a payment network provider or Internet advertising service fails to suspend its services in the absence of such a counter notification.

Requires online service providers, Internet search engines, payment network providers, and Internet advertising services, upon receiving a copy of a court order relating to an AG action, to carry out certain preventative measures including withholding services from an infringing site or preventing users located in the United States from accessing the infringing site. Requires payment network providers and Internet advertising services, upon receiving a copy of such an order relating to a right holder's action, to carry out similar preventative measures. Provides immunity from liability for service providers, payment network providers, Internet advertising services, advertisers, Internet search engines, domain name registries, or domain name registrars that take actions required by this Act or otherwise voluntarily block access to or end financial affiliation with such sites.

Permits such entities to stop or refuse services to certain sites that endanger public health by distributing prescription medication that is adulterated, misbranded, or without a valid prescription.

Expands the offense of criminal copyright infringement to include public performances of: (1) copyrighted work by digital transmission, and (2) work intended for commercial dissemination by making it available on a computer network. Expands the criminal offenses of trafficking in inherently dangerous goods or services to include: (1) counterfeit drugs; and (2) goods or services falsely identified as meeting military standards or intended for use in a national security, law enforcement, or critical infrastructure application.

Increases the penalties for: (1) specified trade secret offenses intended to benefit a foreign government, instrumentality, or agent; and (2) various other intellectual property offenses as amended by this Act.

Directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review, and if appropriate, amend related Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Requires the Secretary of State and Secretary of Commerce to appoint at least one intellectual property attache to be assigned to the U.S. embassy or diplomatic mission in a country in each geographic region covered by a Department of State regional bureau.