Can online Piracy
Be stopped by Laws?
WhiLe on A scuba diving trip in the Seychelles Islands earlier this year, I found myself worrying about pirates.
Real pirates, as in people who attack
boats, take hostages, and sometimes
kill their prey. This kind of piracy has
become unfortunately common in
that part of the world.
On board our ship were four former British special forces soldiers who
served as security guards. They were
armed with semiautomatic weapons
and on patrol, 24/7, for the entire trip.
The danger was not just hypothetical.
The frigate berthed next to us as we
boarded had 25 pirates in its brig.
Waking up every morning to the
prospect of encountering real pirates
added brio to our excursion. It also induced reflections on use of the word
“piracy” to describe copyright infringements. Downloading music is really
not in the same league as armed attacks on ships.
Photogra Ph by alain-Christian
As we were cruising from Mahe
to Aldabra, I expected to be far away
from it all. But the ship got a daily fax
of the main stories being published in
the New York Times. Among them were
stories about the controversy over the
proposed legislation known as the
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). SOPA
would have given the entertainment
industry new legal tools to impede access to foreign “rogue” Web sites that
host infringing content and to challenge U.S.-directed Web sites that the
a stop online Piracy act protest rally in new York City in January, 2012.
industry thought were either indifferent or acquiescent to storage of infringing materials.
For a time, it seemed virtually inevitable that SOPA would become law. Yet
because strong opposition emerged
from technology companies, computer
security experts, civil liberties groups
and members of the general public,
SOPA has been put on hold. It is unlikely to be enacted in anything like its
This column will explain the key features of SOPA, why the entertainment
industry believed SOPA was necessary
to combat online piracy, and why SOPA
came to be perceived as so flawed that
numerous sponsors withdrew their
support from the bill.
Blocking access to
“Foreign Rogue Web sites”
As introduced, SOPA would have empowered the Attorney General (AG) of