It means I woke up to this actual post from a Facebook “friend” of mine:

Christian or not, Praise God we still have some freedom of speech and can voice our opinion. That being said here are words for thought…Do you know what America has in common with those countries in poverty and constant devastation??? God is missing! Now some people have voted to put a Muslim to lead this nation another4 years. We need to be on our knees in prayer and fasting! Those that were at rock bottom4 years ago are doing better than they were 4 years ago because Obama rewarded them by living off the government by giving them more benefits.

There were others that decried our move to socialism and lack of American values and morals as if half the country suddenly rejected morals and values.  While folks settle down, I thought we would take a look at what President Obama’s reelection means for technology and internet law.

Professor Eric Johnson of the Blog Law Blog put together a pro-Obama endorsement prior to the election.  Citing an American Science article, President Obama answered “What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific, and economic role?” as follows:

A free and open Internet is essential component of American society and of the modern economy. I support legislation to protect intellectual property online, but any effort to combat online piracy must not reduce freedom of expression, increase cybersecurity risk, or undermine the dynamic, innovative global Internet. I also believe it is essential that we take steps to strengthen our cybersecurity and ensure that we are guarding against threats to our vital information systems and critical infrastructure, all while preserving Americans’ privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognizing the civilian nature of cyberspace.

Cutting through the rhetoric, it means President Obama does not support SOPA as last proposed.  I’ve blogged on the pros and cons of SOPA.  Professor Johnson suggested Governor Romney, meanwhile, was against net neutrality which we discussed before.

Ron Coleman’s Likelihood of Confusion blog put this infographic together before the election:

obama vs romney ip policy The IP Election (Infographic)

Courtesy of: LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® Blog

Like every election I have been a part of, this one was described as the most important of my lifetime.  If technology and internet law are your main issues, this was not an earth shaker.  SOPA and PIPA were already headed toward serious re-writes regardless of the outcome.

In a post today, Professor Johnson suggested a still too close to call race in the House may be more important.

Although you didn’t ask, I prefer post-election Facebook analysis like this:

First candidate that announces they’re considering running in 2016 I am going to squarely kick in the balls until they can’t breathe. Seriously.
 

Related:

What 2016 domain names are being snapped up from Domain Name Wire.

The Wall Street Journal on why Obama’s win may not be good for India tech industry.

The Wall Street Journal Digits blog on Twitter tracking the election.

Kevin O’ Keefe of Real Lawyers Have Blogs asks if this was the last social media election.

 

Plenty has been written about the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, in the industry press with some coverage in the mainstream media. Like many controversial proposals, SOPA discussions seem to be stoked in rhetoric.  So, I thought I would break down what it does, the pros and cons and what it means for you.

The Bill

Texas Republican Lamar Smith introduced SOPA in October with bipartisan support.  The purpose of the bill is to give more power to U.S. law enforcement to fight the online selling of copyrighted materials (movies, music) and counterfeit goods (high end purses and drugs).  

Under SOPA, the Department of Justice or copyright owners could seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.  The relief can include anything from preventing credit cards or PayPal from processing orders from those sites, preventing search engines from listing the sites and forcing Internet Service Providers to block access to the sites.  

Supporters

It was not easy to find supporters of the bill on the internet because it appears most of the online community opposes it.  Your large content producers (music and movies), brand name manufacturers, drug companies, the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support it claiming it protects their intellectual property and is necessary to allow the U.S. Government to take actions against people it can control within our borders to stop “rogue foreign sites.”  They cite the number of jobs and commerce that depends on the protection of copyrights and trademarks.

Detractors

Those opposing SOPA include Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, LinkedIn, eBay, Mozilla Corporation, the Brookings Institution the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU.  Their main complaint is that the law is overly broad and ultimately ineffective because true pirates will set up new sites.  They suggest the bill will prevent innovations, move internet sites and services offshore, scare away investors and make it difficult for sites as common as Google and Twitter to operate.

These are both gross over-simplifcations of the issues, but each side could write 50-page white papers advocating their position.  The Wikipedia page on SOPA is a decent start for more information.

What does it mean?

Unfortunately, it is too early to tell.  A compromised version of SOPA, that will include some of the language from the Senate’s companion, PIPA, will get serious consideration and possibly become law. 

Looking just at the selfish interests of brick and mortar companies, it may be welcomed.  Whether you sell valves, records, books or other products, you should have less to worry about cheap knock-offs from overseas.  I’ve fielded calls from clients have had their sites mimmicked by foreign entities and this may provide one avenue of preventing those sites from making any headway in the U.S.  Otherwise, we’ve been forced to shoehorn DMCA claims to prevent this conduct quickly.  If you engage in e-commerce, then you may have mixed feelings.

For online businesses, there are some safe harbor-type protections, but you need to be prepared to act and act swiftly if you receive a takedown or are the subject of a takedown.  Imagine the damage to your business if for a couple of days you cannot process payments or can’t be located on Google.   There are some protections that would allow you to sue should the person filing the complaint “knowingly misrepresent” the allegations — a pretty difficult hurdle to overcome if you are truly a victim.

The real concern, in my opinion, goes to innovation and investment on the Internet.  The phenomenal growth of the Internet is a result of a largely hands-off government approach.  I would hesitate to invest in something that can be taken away by the DOJ or a complainant.  YouTube and Facebook have been promised they are safe, but how hard is it to imagine a similar service won’t be considered a facilitator of copyright infringement.

Tomorrow may bring some new development in the debate and hopefully a more artfully, clearer and narrower crafted law, if one is even necessary.

To the video

First the supporters.

http://vimeo.com/32592166

Now, here is some video agianst it.