The US Congress has been trying to regulate the internet since the late 1990s. But since then there have been a seemingly unending attempts to impose one type of censorship or another. So far they’ve gone down to defeat.
The most recent is SOPA, whose title, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is, in my opinion, blatantly false advertising. (The senate version is PIPA – Protect IP Act.)
Under the guise of copyright protection the bill, if passed, would open the door to almost anyone being able to shut down your ability to block sites just because someone expresses a suspicion of copyright violation.
Okay, it doesn’t say exactly that, but according to the Electronic Freedom Foundation says, “That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them (payment processors) immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.” It’s a complex bill.
EFF blames Hollywood, which makes a great headline. But it isn’t just Hollywood. Newer entertainment companies, who should know better, have also gotten into the act. According to ExtremeTech.com, Viacom’s general counsel Michael Fricklas said “I don’t think there is a first amendment right to speak on a site that is engaged in pervasive copyright infringement (assuming that there are plenty of places to speak).”
The assumption of “plenty of places to speak” is a poor one and SOPA carefully avoids any judicial oversight and allows action on mere accusation. That’s contrary to much of what I understand are protections for all under our Constitution.
As annoying as it is to have content scrapers use my words without any compensation or even acknowledgement, allowing anyone who is even mildly annoyed with me to essentially shut down my site without some pretty good due process isn’t the solution. Giving me the ability to make unfounded accusations against, oh, say Fox News (how tempting) and have them treated as fact and acted upon is wrong.
Fortunately the Judiciary Committee has delayed a vote, probably due to pressure from people like us. But it will come up again.
I urge you to contact your congress people. Just enter your zip code at Congress.org and you’ll find out how easy this is to do. Tell them you vote and tell them you’re opposed to SOPA and PICA.
And if you’re curious about the technical aspects of SOPA passing check out How SOPA Could Actually Break The Internet.
How do you participate in politics?