Town Meeting on SOPA

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Brooklyn Law School Intellectual Property Professors Derek Bambauer, Jonathan Askin, Jason Mazzone, Samuel Murumba, Jane Yakowitz, and Irina Manta held a Town Meeting on SOPA with a standing room only crowd in the Student Lounge. Leading off the meeting, Prof. Bambauer presented an overview of the differences and similarities in the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) which are both still pending in Congress. Next Prof. Yakowitz spoke about the privacy issues inherent in the bills especially concern that the government may use seized domain names to collect IP addresses from end users who go to those seized domains.

Next, Prof. Askin discussed the success of the internet community in opposing SOPA and PIPA bills which major companies in the TV, music and movie industry largely authored and for which they lobbied. Calling the online protest to SOPA and PIPA the first significant victory for the internet community, Prof. Askin also discussed the OPEN Act (S. 2029) which Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced in the House a companion bill, H.R. 3782, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act on the same day as the internet protest when high-profile websites like Wikipedia went dark. He noted that the KeepTheWebOpen site is soliciting input from the public to comment on the OPEN Act to make suggestions for its revision. Seeing this as an opportunity for lawyers and law students to provide input into the legislation, Prof. Askin will be leading a Hack-the-Act initiative to offer law students experience with legislative drafting. In a future podcast, Prof. Askin will discuss the series of events in the Hack-the-Act program scheduled later this month.

The other speakers at the Town Meeting were Prof. Mazzone who commented on the need for strong protections for owners of IP content but acknowledged concerns that copyright law is being privatized and that its meaning and application are determined not by governmental actors but by private parties, particularly deep-pocketed copyright owners. Increasingly, the balance between private rights and public interests is set by private lawmaking. Prof. Murumba noted that SOPA and PIPA are part of a broader application of protections for copyright owners making reference to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a multilateral treaty with the purpose of establishing international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement.

Finally, Prof. Manta commented on the dire warnings of the entertainment industry about the impact of online piracy at a time when the market is booming, with ever greater content choices for consumers, more options for creators, and many more opportunities for smart businesses and artists to make money. She noted a recent report entitled The Sky is Rising which shows that the entertainment industry is thriving and that anti-piracy laws are more about profit-maximization rather than survival.