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Shutting Down Sites With #SOPA

November 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

According to OpenCongress user adipesh, a little provision buried in Title I, Section 103 of the Stop Online Piracy Act, wit the innocuous-sounding title, “Relief,” gives the entertainment industry a tool to shut down websites without having to prove their case in court.

Here’s the legislative language:

5) RELIEF- On application of a qualifying plaintiff following the commencement of an action under this section with respect to an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property, the court may issue a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, or an injunction, in accordance with rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against a registrant of a domain name used by the Internet site, or against an owner or operator of the Internet site, or, in an action brought in rem under paragraph (2), against the Internet site, or against the domain name used by the Internet site, to cease and desist from undertaking any further activity as an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property.

And here’s adipesh’s comment on the provision:

This is one of the most dangerous parts of the whole bill. This is the part that allows the government or the “qualifying plaintiff” (read: Entertainment Industry) to shut down websites that have been accused of violating copyright before there’s been any trial.

The government or industry could conceivably use this part of the law to shut down websites they don’t like and keep them shut down indefinitely while the case is tied up in the legal system, effectively destroying the offending websites without obtaining a guilty verdict.

That seems right. All it would take is a friendly judge to make a snap decision based on preliminary evidence and the supposedly offending site would have to be taken down.

Read the bill for yourself. If you see something interesting, leave a comment and I’ll highlight it on this blog.

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