SOPA and PIPA may harm Australian small businesses and online commerce.
Tuesday 21 February 2012 – Pellicaan Online, a web solutions company, has announced its opposition to the proposed U.S.-based anti-piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA. It joins Internet giants Google and Wikipedia in opposing the bills and voices concerns over a possible precedent for upcoming Australian Internet filtering legislation that may threaten freedom of speech and protection of international commerce.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in October. The bill, along with its counterpart in the U.S. Senate, the Protect IP ACT (PIPA), is intended as anti-piracy legislation. The proposed bills would give U.S. law enforcement agencies and copyright holders the ability to seek court injunctions against foreign websites suspected of disseminating intellectual property, such as music, books or videos.
However, critics say the bills go too far, allowing entire domains to be shut down due to a single accusation, and not providing safeguards against misuse, such as companies intentionally misrepresenting the facts in order to take down competitor sites. This could have a devastating impact for many Australian businesses, Pellicaan Online Managing Director Trudy Pellicaan says.
“The U.S. is an important market for many Australian web-based businesses,” Pellicaan said. “A baseless accusation of intellectual property infringement could completely shut down a business’s web presence in that market. The only way to reinstate that presence would be through costly legal fees and trips to the United States, something that would be impossible for many small businesses owners.” She warns the U.S. legislation should be watched carefully, as Australian legislators are gearing up to discuss their own Internet filtering bills.
The Australian Labor Party’s proposed mandatory Internet filtering legislation is due to be discussed sometime in 2012 or 2013, according to the latest report by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). At the heart of the proposal is the Refused Classification system, a secret government list of websites that “offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults.”
But critics fear the broad definition of Refused Classification, the secrecy around what qualifies to be on the list, and who gets to determine what goes onto it may lead to a dangerous precedent.
“It’s important to clearly define what ‘Refused Classification’ is, in order to not limit Australia’s place as a leader in online commerce,” Pellicaan said. “The potential for political dissent to be blocked from public view, as well as any other controversial topics, could be damaging to not only citizens, but to businesses alike.”