Wednesday, January 18, 2012

8 Political Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA

My post from earlier today, 8 Technological Reasons to Stop SOPA & PIPA, discussed the legitimate technological problems with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). These bills are supposed to be an attempt at stopping online piracy, but as I mentioned yesterday, they will not work but will instead cause harm to the speed, reliability, security, and safety of the Internet. There are also political reasons this legislation should not be supported. Here are eight of them: SOPA and PIPA will not stop piracy. It’s even a stretch to argue that they would impact it at all. I explained how earlier, but the technical details aren’t important to today’s point. If proposed legislation will obviously not accomplish its stated purpose, it should never pass. This one point alone should be enough for your congressman and senators to oppose it. In case it’s not enough, keep reading; I have seven more reasons. SOPA and PIPA mandate censorship compliance. When a domain name is seized by the government, ISPs are forced to comply with the censorship. There is no option of appeal for the ISPs; they must comply. The method of seizing domain names lacks due process for the accused. These bills take a “guilty until innocent” approach to Internet censorship. If the site that has been seized is truly not violating copyrights, the owner can follow a process to get his site restored, but this process is backward from what the Fifth Amendment would require. Voting for legislation which so obviously ignores the Fifth Amendment would be a violation of the oath of office for any legislator. SOPA and PIPA contradict the safe harbor rule. I’m no lawyer, but current law creates a safe harbor for ISPs. Basically YouTube isn’t liable for copyrighted material you upload, as long as they take it offline at the request of the copyright holder. If this legislation passes, it will make YouTube responsible for the content its users upload, which means that YouTube could be gone from the Internet with one complaint of copyright violation. SOPA and PIPA will damage entrepreneurship. The risk of investing startup capital for a new company will be too great; it could be completely lost overnight. Where would we be without the companies that came from the dot com era? I know where I’d be: unemployed. We can’t risk killing the entrepreneurial spirit in America’s small business minds. The Attorney General is a qualifying plaintiff. Suppose people who comment on my site have an avatar of a copyrighted character. Suppose Eric Holder doesn’t like what I have to say about him. He would be able, without the request or support of the copyright holder, to have my web site’s domain seized by court order. This is too much power for government to hold. SOPA and PIPA set a precedent for global Internet administration. This one is really scary. Yesterday I talked about how easy it was to bypass the efforts of a SOPA/PIPA domain seizure by using servers outside of the United States for DNS queries. The next logical step would be for our government to start pushing for a global Internet management process where all DNS servers would be subject to censorship law. A United Nations type effort for censoring Internet sites would effectively kill the Internet. SOPA and PIPA are about Internet censorship, not online piracy. I’ve used the word “censorship” several times in this post – and not by accident. This legislation is about our government having the ability to step in and forcibly seize a web site so that people in the United States are unable to read its content. Putting restrictions on what people can read or publish is nothing more than censorship. This legislation hinders free speech and is in violation of the First Amendment. Online piracy is definitely an important issue, but it’s not an issue that can be solved with government regulation. It’s a service problem. Think about how iTunes saved the music industry with the iTunes store. It made music easy to buy, and people bought it. To stop piracy, copyright holders need to deliver the content in ways where the pirates are willing to pay for it. A government takeover of the Internet is not the solution to this problem. I hope you’ve found these posts enlightening and informative. Please use them to stress to your congressman and senators that this legislation must not be passed. There is no reason for any member of Congress to vote in favor of this legislation. Emphasize these points when you call. Let them know you’re paying attention. We absolutely must stop these bills from becoming law.

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