The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently under vigorous debate in Congress and may be headed for passage in 2012.
SOPA permits a trademark or copyright owner to send a notification of alleged infringement of its intellectual property right(s) on a web site to an “Internet Advertising Service” or “Payment Network Provider” which are providing services to the infringing web site. The service providers, after receiving notice, are obligated to stop advertising relating to, and payments to, the offending web site unless there is a solid legal reason for not doing so.
The notice and service cessation procedure provided by SOPA has existed in almost the same form in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) for almost 15 years, so why is SOPA controversial?
The short answer is Google. To that add Amazon, EBay, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a multitude of other companies that collectively earn billions of dollars by acting as “Internet Advertising Services.” The amount of revenue that might be lost to these media giants by disconnecting allegedly infringing websites is probably small, but the likely burdens of SOPA compliance will be large. Passage of SOPA will, beyond doubt, require these Internet Advertising Service companies to establish a compliance department to handle the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of infringement notifications each is likely to receive daily. Thus, they find SOPA a distasteful appetizer to some possibly even more distasteful entrée.
At this writing (January 19, 2012) the Internet Advertising Services are staging one day blackouts in protest of SOPA and Congressional supporters of the law are withdrawing their support at a rate of 2 or 3 per day. The safe bet here is on a redo of SOPA under the Advertising Services’ combined political pressure.