Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) Under Review by U.S. House Judiciary Committee

The controversial bill for the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was introduced on Oct. 26, and, if passed, would allow law enforcement officials and copyright holders to seek court orders to stop online ad networks, search engines, domain-name registrars and payment processors from continuing to do business with websites that are accused of infringing on copyrights or facilitating copyright infringement.

SOPA is designed to fight against websites that distribute pirated songs, movies and other copyrighted materials and counterfeit goods.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing this past Wednesday where Google Inc was the only witness against the bill at the hearing.

Google policy counsel Katherine Oyama told the House Judiciary Committee hearing that “a corporation, copyright ‘troll,’ or anyone with an axe to grind could send a notice… without first involving law enforcement or triggering any judicial process,” explaining that many innocent websites could fall victim to legislation without due process.

She said that the current version of the bill sweeps together a significant number of lawful websites with the broad definition of a website that is purposely trying to steal U.S. intellectual property. She added that “as long as there is money to be made pushing pirated and counterfeit products, tech-savvy criminals around the world will find ways to sell these products online.”

That same day, Google, eBay Inc, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! Inc and other Internet companies ran full-page ads in major newspapers, urging lawmakers to rethink the bill.

Reddit, Tumblr, the Center for Democracy and Technology and many other internet companies also protested on Wednesday by displaying black banners over their website logos with the words “Stop Censorship,” deeming the day “American Censorship Day.”