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Are You In Danger Of Jail Time For Doing Business Online

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

Possibly so, the odds are against you!

By SWalker

Recently, there has been a lot of activity around several pieces of legislation based in the Unites States and worldwide, which would greatly influence the way we use and do business online.  Two sister bills that were recently introduced in the U.S. were Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PIPA.  The spirit of the bill was to elevate protection dealing with online piracy and to decrease theft of copyrighted material.  However, the means by which the bills proposed to deal with these acts in itself went against constitutional rights. 

While these bills were fought against by many countries and other organizations, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) came to light.  ACTA is an international law that requires each country to have a piece of legislation to deal with online piracy. (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Wikipedia 2012)  Negotiations on this bill have been going on since 2006 and in the interest of national security; the United States government felt they could not share this information with their citizens.  (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Wikipedia 2012)  Numerous requests by countries and concerned groups to view this bill have been repeatedly denied.  (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Wikipedia 2012) 

Shortly after denial of SOPA and PIPA, yet another bill took its place, Child Online Pornography Act (COPA), which included revisions that would pass the same restrictions that SOPA / PIPA failed to accomplish.  Only now, they pull on our heart strings while masking their real intention.   One activist group that has been shown to cause havoc online, Anonymous, shut down child pornography websites.  (PCWorld, October 2011) However, you won’t find this article on front page of The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post or other major news outlets.  (Owner supports Online Piracy Acts.) 

Are we immune?  No.  British Student (British Citizen) doesn’t think so.  A 23 year old is being extradited back to the United States to face charges for having hyperlinks on his website (not the actual files) to pirated movies.   In addition, as far as British law is concerned, he did not violate any laws by telling people on his website where the illegal files could be found.  Remember, he didn’t have any downloaded movies nor did he give anyone illegal content—just told them where they could find it.  (What’s Hawt, 2012)

Let’s think about this.  He didn’t murder anyone.  He didn’t commit an act of terrorism.  He didn’t deal in illegal drug sales.  He didn’t even give anyone pirated material.  He just told people where to find it.  Now, he is being extradited back to the U.S. for his crimes and faces 10 years in a US jail.

Had SOPA and PIPA passed, search engines, online encyclopedias, email providers,  business owners with websites—anyone online could be found guilty of online piracy and without even a warrant for arrest.  What ever happened to “due process of law”?

As a small online company offering web hosting services, I am frightened.  I have stayed awake at night wondering, “As a reseller of web hosting services, will I be accountable for ALL content my customer’s post on their websites?”  What happens if my customers do not update their software properly and they are hacked?  What if the hacker places hyperlinks to illegal files on their website, will I be held accountable and possibly face up to 10 years in jail for doing business online? 

In addition, I run several blog websites.  I welcome conversation over articles, recipes and all sorts of material that I discuss.  Now, I fear that people leaving comments may leave links that are malicious on my website. 

I feel for successful bloggers with thousands of subscribers who actively comment on their blogs.  What will bloggers with this kind of traffic do to protect themselves?  Will you need to hire a fulltime comment checker just to make sure some troll didn’t post a link that they weren't supposed to?

What about your Facebook wall?  Will you be held accountable for what your mom posts on your wall as a link?  What if someone unwittingly posts a link that has malicious content?  Will you be visiting your Great Aunt in jail (who can barely turn on a computer to begin with)?

The laws put forth have not been thought through and are renegade in nature.  I do not believe that one country’s laws supersede another.  In addition, it disappoints me that countries are not protecting its citizens as it should.  I believe that due process, search warrants and other measures to protect people need to stay in place. 

When people are going to jail for illegal movies for 10 years but white collar bank crimes go unpunished, I believe we have cause for concern.  (PressTV, 2012)

Focusing on international debt would be time better served.  Countries are not going bankrupt over the entertainment industry; they are in financial turmoil for poor purchasing choices, unmanaged spending, and lack of sound financial practices. 

So, seriously, what is the REAL reason for such laws to be discussed?  National security? Smoke and mirrors to hide the real issues? What’s missing from this discussion?  Something isn’t right with the story we are given.  Why is there such a push to bombard our legislative systems with so many Anti-piracy hydra heads? 

©2012 All Rights Reserved.


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Bibliography

  1. ""Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement."." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.. 30/January/2012. 30/January/2012 <Web >
  2. "Hacker Collective Anonymous Strikes at Child Pornography Sites.." PCWorld. 22/October/2011. 30/January/2012 <Web >
  3. "British Student Faces 10 Years in a US Jail Over ‘Illegal’ Website.." What’s Hawt. 15/January/2012. 30/January/2012 <Web >
  4. "Goldman Sachs cooked Greece books." PressTV. 29/January/2012. 30/January/2012 <Web >

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