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Google, Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo Battle Congress Over Copyrights

Anti-piracy legislation under consideration in Congress, such as the Stop Internet Privacy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP, will alter the Internet landscape if passed, say opponents of the bill, including Google and Facebook.

Copyrighted material from 10-second clips to full-length documentaries are subject to removal under the terms of the proposed legislation.

The most comprehensive film documenting the Beatles is the eight-hour docu-series that accompanied the Beatles Anthology in 1995. It is posted on YouTube by multiple users in 10-15 minute segments – the longest videos YouTube will allow. But at random parts of the series, whole segments are removed. In their place is a note, which reads “this video violates copyright infringement laws and it has been removed.”

It’s videos like the Beatles Anthology that have spurred the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to introduce bills that would fight for the rights of major rights-holders like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America by requiring Internet service providers to remove websites that post copyrighted material.

The bills, PROTECT IP in the Senate and SOPA in the House, would allow for officials to monitor websites, including search engines and social media sites, and remove any copyrighted material.

In a letter to The New York Times, major Internet companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter said piracy is a problem largely conducted off-shore and regulations would punish a public undeserving of such treatment.

“Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites,” the letter said.

“We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation's cyber-security.”

If these bills were enacted 10 years ago, there may not be YouTube. There may not be Facebook.

Mash-ups would not exist, as many violate copyright laws that limit the use of clips to under a certain amount of time.

The millions of clips on YouTube from your favorite shows, news programs and documentaries would be removed because the producers of the original content are not making money – only those who upload the material and choose to run ads on them.

The bills would allow companies to determine if a website isn't doing enough to stop copyright infringement and proceed to shut them down. Opponents of the bills say it will stifle start-ups and reduce creativity.

The Chamber of Commerce estimates that U.S. companies lose $135 billion a year to piracy. Those in favor of the bills suggest those funds might be recouped in the future if stricter laws require pay-for-play use of copyrighted material and if that material is taxed.

But the use of copyrighted material is already woven into the fabric of modern culture – American culture, particularly. Opponents of the bills – from everyday users to social media giants – say rights holders like MPAA and RIAA are greedily looking to find one final avenue to make money in a digital age that saw them lose massive amounts of money.

It is unclear when the bills may go up for a vote, but debate is likely to intensify.

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