Under current law, any U.S. website posting infringing content has to take the song or movie down at the request of whatever company owns the copyright. But under SOPA, companies could go directly to web hosting companies and require them to take down the entire website — not just individual songs and videos.
As a result, SOPA creates a new opening for corporate command of the Internet. Under SOPA, web hosting companies that take down legitimate websites at the behest of copyright holders would be granted blanket immunity from any liability for losses caused to those legitimate sites.
“Nobody’s responsible,” says University of Virginia Law School Professor Christopher Sprigman. “A website is taken down, there are robust First Amendment standards that should prevent it from being taken down, and it gets taken down anyway. Well whose responsible? No one.”
That model could also pave the way for a new business model among hosting companies. Instead of waiting for Hollywood to ask that a site be shutdown, hosting companies could agree to monitor web traffic for them for a fee and preemptively take down infringing sites without having to be asked, Internet activists warn.
“It would be a very tragic thing if in the name of protecting artists, we saw the most important platform of our time become the province of just a few companies deciding what is and isn’t legitimate expression,” says Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition, an advocacy group for independent musicians that staunchly opposes Protect IP and SOPA, emphasizing that what is good for corporate record labels often doesn’t translate into positive outcomes actual musicians.