PDM Editorial: Why We're Against PIPA/SOPA And For the Internet
BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, January 17 2012
Last year, when Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and when House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Lamar Smith introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), they probably had no idea that they, along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors, would awaken a sleeping tiger. After all, the proposed legislation was fairly technical in nature and would cost the government little to implement. But in the days and weeks that followed, it has become exceedingly clear that Leahy and Smith and their allies in the entertainment industry misread the political landscape. Instead of a slam dunk designed to crack down on so-called "online piracy," the bills have backfired on Hollywood, fostering the emergence of a significant new force: a civic-business alliance to defend the freedom of online speech and sharing and to protect the basic values and structure of the open Internet.
Others have already done an excellent job of describing and explaining all the reasons why PIPA and SOPA should be defeated. See Joi Ito and Ethan Zuckerman's post explaining the MIT Media Lab's reasons for opposing the legislation; Tim O'Reilly's strong argument that the whole problem of online piracy is overstated and unproven, the CATO Institute's explanation as to how it threatens to set off a massive wave of online censorship, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation's detailed explication of the dangerous consequences that these laws would create for online speech. In sum, if passed, these bills as originally proposed would wreak havoc with the Internet's DNS system, place a needlessly heavy burden on websites to police user-submitted content leading to lots of prior restraint and unilateral content takedowns without due process, hurt innovation, and inspire the Chinese government and other repressive regimes in their own efforts to throttle online activity. Oh, and by the way, the government already has the power, more narrowly constrained, to take down foreign rogue sites (though it has used it in sloppy and worrisome ways, which is another reason to go slow on expanding those powers)....
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