Today many of the large sites on the internet have gone dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act presently working its way through Congress. I am all for the protection of intellectual property but in my mind this bill goes way too far.
The bill is designed to protect copy-write holders and give them some teeth to go after site that misuse their intellectual property. It also protects consumers against counterfeit drugs from Canada and other such countries.
The bill would give the US Justice Dept. the power to go after website not only in the US but outside. How do we enforce US law outside the US? The law would require intent companies block sites suspected of piracy and search engines like Google would also be required to block sites suspected of piracy.
Opponents of the bill say it would restrict the free exchange of ideas and is also an infringement on the 1st Amendment to the Constitution protecting Free Speech. It would basically create a “black list” and that would lead to censorship.
One of the best parts of the internet is the concept of free exchange of ideas. This is a hallmark of American society at all levels. This bill, as written, would restrict the free exchange of ideas and send a message to other countries that it is okay to restrict speech. The United States has long been a country that prides itself on its freedoms and if this bill in enacted it will take away a portion of the freedom.
A letter from the American Society of News Editors had this to say about SOPA:
It is our longstanding dedication to First Amendment rights that drives our opposition to SOPA. Navigating the balance between copyright and free speech demands precision, and in seeking to protect the interests of copyright holders, the First Amendment requires Congress to adopt the least restrictive intrusion on speech available.
Two provisions of section 201—the definition of willfulness in section 201(c) and the expansion of criminal penalties to public performances in section 201(a)—are troubling. While each provision is problematic in its own right, the two together could threaten important library and educational activities. Letter from the Library Copyright Alliance
But the most striking quote comes from an article in the Weekly Standard quoting former Senator Chris Dodd who now the head of Motion Picture Association of America;
If you’re wondering why lawyers and Hollywood folks would get behind legislation to censor the Internet, you only need to listen to former Senator Chris Dodd, now the head of the MPAA, who last week explained to Variety that the lobby is only asking for the same kind of power to censor the Internet as the government has in the People’s Republic of China.
Well I don’t think the United States should be looking to have the same power as the government of Communist China.
We need some reform but this is not the answer.