SOPA The Media Industry Fights Online Copyright Infringement

By Steven Callander, David Hoyt
2013 | Case No. P82 | Length 8 pgs.
In 2011, The Walt Disney Company and other content owners aggressively lobbied Congress to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The intent was to prevent unauthorized copying and transmission of copyrighted materials. This had been largely eliminated on U.S.-based websites, but some copyright owners claimed it was prevalent overseas. SOPA (and its companion legislation “Protect IP Act,” or PIPA), would allow the government or private companies to request court orders to bar any U.S. company from “enabling” alleged infringing sites. SOPA initially had bipartisan support, and previous efforts to strengthen copyright protection had faced little opposition. The bill supported the commercial interests of Disney and other content owners. However, many of the specifics of SOPA and PIPA had the potential to stir powerful opposition from a wide variety of sources. The case discusses copyright law and the impact of technology advances on protection of copyrighted materials. It also describes SOPA and aspects of the proposed law that might attract opposition. The case concludes by asking students to consider SOPA from the perspective of both Disney and potential opponents.

Learning Objective

Many groups may support and oppose actions that an organization wants to take, and it is important to understanding their power, motivation, and willingness to act. Students should realize that business and political interests are intertwined, that power matters in politics, and that there are a number of factors that impact power. Important teaching points are the power of mobilization, and the importance of the choice between a high- and low-profile strategy.
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