Copyright and Wrong

Nicholas Deleon | The Daily | October 28, 2011

A piece of legislation backed by the MPAA was introduced in the House of Representatives this week and threatens to upend the way we use the Internet. The E-Parasites Act, a contrived acronym for Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation, seeks to give the attorney general broad power to create a blacklist of websites that “induce” copyright infringement. Service providers would then be legally compelled to block these websites.

Let’s say you’re using an online digital locker service like Dropbox to store your Microsoft Word files. Someone else on the site, however, is using it to house illegally downloaded MP3s. The record label finds out, approaches a judge and says, “Dropbox is inducing its users to commit copyright infringement. We request you block it, or we’ll go to MasterCard — which handles Dropbox’s money matters — or the site’s advertisers and legally demand that they stop facilitating the site’s inducement of copyright infringement.”

The law can either shutter a website until it removes copyright-violating material or financially ruin it. In either scenario, your Word files are gone...