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Content delivery networks and other question marks drive uncertainty over PIPA, SOPA

While widespread protests last week led to at least a temporary delay in the passage through Congress of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP legislation, Organic vice president of technology Todd Drake recently wrote in a guest piece for Forbes that these bills and others like them still pose a threat to the business community.

One of the main problems that would be created by the passage of SOPA and PIPA, Drake said, has to do with their less-than-helpful bifurcation of internet traffic into foreign and domestic categories. Beyond the proposed laws' failure to account for obvious complicating factors like the widespread use of content delivery networks, the executives said they even leave simple questions like which set of rules applies to .com websites hosted overseas unanswered.

What's more, according to Drake, the burdens placed on businesses around the world could be drastically increased by the bills being signed into law.

"Before, you were not directly responsible for user-generated content. Now you are, and you need to actively monitor what's going on — if your legal department even wants to take on that risk. If you have international sites, you need to be particularly wary, since the U.S. laws now govern your sites['] availability," he wrote.

This means that companies providing any kind of forum or community site — even if it is outsourced to a third party — must aggressively police all postings to that venue, or risk being held accountable for any copyright violation.

Furthermore, Drake wrote, those accusations don't even have to be particularly well-grounded in fact, as the proposed laws would allow attorneys general to shut sites down with even the allegation of misconduct. The possibility for malicious abuse of the law by a website's competitors is clear, yet neither SOPA nor PIPA provides sufficient recourse for potential victims of such activity.

While the bills have been stalled for the moment, a government crackdown on copyright infringement has occurred regardless, with the shutdown of noted file sharing website Megaupload and the arrest of several of its principals in connection with an alleged conspiracy to profit from content being hosted and distributed illegally. According to the Washington Post, the government accused the site's backers of knowingly providing a profitable haven for online piracy.