The wording of the proposed SOPA legislation means that a huge number of websites can be classed as “facilitating the commission of copyright infringement”. For example:
- A blog which allows users to post comments
- An e-commerce site which allows shoppers to leave reviews
- Any other site which allows Internet users to upload content which could include copyrighted material
But, I’m not subject to US jurisdiction… there’s nothing they can do, right?
If your site is classed as facilitating the commission of copyright infringement, the proposed legislation will allow the US government to force:
- ISPs to block access to your site in the USA (section 102(c)(2)(A)(i)) – no big deal for a UK-based small business I agree
- Search engines (e.g. Google) to remove you from their listings (section 102(c)(2)(B) – hmm, that’s going to cause a problem
- Ad providers (e.g. Google AdSense) from serving ads to your site – that could hurt my pocket a bit
- Payment providers (e.g. PayPal) to terminate service to your site – ouch, I can’t sell anything!
You can appeal against being cut off like this and can be granted a stay of execution, but only if you subject yourself to the jurisdiction of the US courts, and if you know about the action against you (and the legislation does not even require that you’re notified!)
This is a really big deal for users of the Internet across the whole world. Even if you’re a small cottage industry selling arts and crafts to UK citizens from a site hosted in the UK with a .co.uk web address, the chances are that a lot of your visitors will be referred by Google, and that you’ll use a US based payment provider such as PayPal. The US government would therefore be able to effectively shut down your website.
Don’t allow this to happen. As non-Americans, we have no congressman to lobby, but you can sign up to this petition to the US state department.
The current text of the proposed SOPA bill can be viewed in its entirity here. My information above is all taken from section 102.