Public advocacy group proposes 5 alternatives to SOPA

Public Knowledge launches the Internet Blueprint project, allows users to vote on copyright bills

Copyright infringement is a hot-button issue, especially in today’s age of digital piracy and illegal file sharing. Efforts to combat online theft in the form of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) failed earlier this year. But now, a public advocacy group is offering its own plan to balance Internet openness and copyright protection.

Public Knowledge recently launched the Internet Blueprint project, aimed at developing bills that will “strengthen and improve the way that the internet and law relate to one another.” The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer analyzed the project’s main aims, and broke them down as follows:

  1. Restrict unwarranted copyright takedowns: If a copyright holder notifies a site such as YouTube of pirated material, the site must remove said material for at least 10 days while it investigates the claim. The problem with this, says Public Knowledge, is that “faulty or malicious” takedowns result in the removal of legal content.
  2. Reduce copyright abuse and overreach: This proposal would prevent rights holders from claiming copyright powers that they do not possess.
  3. Clarify “fair use” rules: Under the “fair use” doctrine, copyrighted works can be used for commentary, parody, educational purposes and more. But its application is sometimes inconsistent, and the penalty for misinterpreting the law is steep: up to $150,000 per work. Internet Blueprint suggests limiting financial penalties and expanding examples of fair use.
  4. Shorten copyright terms: Copyright terms currently last for the creator’s lifetime—and 70 years after his or her death. Public Knowledge proposes reducing the term to the life of the author plus 50 years after death.
  5. Permit lawful uses of copyrighted content: Public Knowledge cites the example of digital rights management (DRM) software on DVDs, which impedes illegal copying of copyrighted content, but also can prevent legal excerpting of material.

The organization is encouraging the public to vote on the bills and even draft their own. It remains to be seen whether this democratic approach will sway Congress in favor of the proposed legislation.

Alanna Byrne

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