The illegal downloads of music and movies, and the corresponding financial consequences for music labels and movie production companies, introduced online piracy to the forefront of newsworthy discussions. Today, online piracy has expanded into an online market that allows criminals to profit from stealing intellectual property (such as patents, trademarks, copyrights) from American owners and selling such valuable property online. Such “rogue sites” are usually located outside of America and organizations are able to maintain these sites by circumventing U.S. laws. The rogue sites will sell everything from movies and music, to medicine and automotive parts. In fact, counterfeit baby food comprises a large sector of the online piracy market, endangering the health and wellbeing of American consumers.
In light of this growing threat to American consumers, and their intellectual property rights, there is a call for more stringent online privacy laws to protect against these threats. Illegal piracy costs America $100 billion and thousands of jobs each year. Accordingly, Congress proposed the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) to protect American consumers and American intellectual property. SOPA intends to target foreign websites that manage the sale and traffic of counterfeit products.
However, opponents of the bill have spread misinformation over the Internet to block SOPA’s passage. For example, Google openly opposes SOPA. To that effect, Google paid $500 million to settle a case alleging that Google promotes illegal foreign online pharmacies. The case suggested that these pharmacies pose a health risk for American consumers. Google argues that SOPA will allow for online censorship. Proponents of SOPA argue that the law does not aim to censor the Internet. Instead, this law only focuses on online activity that is already illegal. Furthermore, SOPA only covers foreign websites that are specifically involved in infringing activity. The National Association of Manufacturers, International Union of Police Associations, United States Conference of Mayors, National Songwriters Association, and the National Center for Victims of Crime all support SOPA and its overall purpose. Additionally, both the United States Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations have formed a unique bond to support SOPA.
SOPA works to end the flow of funds to illegal foreign websites, thereby making it more difficult for online criminals to market their sites, and distribute the illegal products in America. This federal statute will attempt to follow the financial trail that the illegal websites and online criminals leave behind to cut off sources of revenue. SOPA will also work to prevent search engines from redirecting consumers to such illegal foreign websites. Finally, this law provides a cause of action for consumers dealing with instances of infringement in their attempts to legally market and distribute their intellectual property online.
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