Big Government vs. the Internet


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(The preceding was drawn from an article in Comics Alliance by Aaron Colter and this AP article.)

For the ordinary web user, it will mean more difficulty in using search engines to find what you want, and a reduced ability to share online content. It will also mean less innovation for which all Internet users can take advantage. It may also impact social media in ways that are unknown, but might include pre-screening comments and photos.

All of this is reason enough for the big websites to make their feelings known by the strongest possible means. And they appear to be getting results. The White House has issued a statement that President Obama will “not support any legislation that reduces freedom of expression … or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.” This forced the sponsor of the bill in the House, Rep. Smith, to withdraw one of the more onerous parts of the bill relating to getting DNS services to block offending sites.

There has also been fallout with regard to co-sponsors who have withdrawn their names from the bills. Three Republican senators – Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, and Roy Blount — have withdrawn their support, bringing the number of co-sponsors below 40. This puts the bill in jeopardy of failing to make it past a potential filibuster and could force Majority Leader Harry Reid to withdraw the bill from consideration.

In the House, Lee Terry (R-NE) and Ben Quayle (R-AZ) have rescinded their support for SOPA, and Chairman Smith has indicated he will revisit the bill in February after he can fashion a consensus. Smith remains adamant that he will bring the bill to the floor despite growing opposition from his Republican colleagues who are really beginning to hear it from the online community. Smith tried to downplay the blackout, saying, “I realize some people are nervous because of misinformation about this bill, but I am confident that ultimately the facts will overcome fears.”

In fact, the tech community, not known for its political advocacy, has flexed its muscles in this fight. Millions of signatures were gathered for online petitions against the legislation. House and senate websites slowed to a crawl as traffic doubled. Phone calls poured into lawmakers’ offices. Emails were so numerous, that congressional inboxes were full and servers were running at full capacity. The onslaught took many on the Hill by surprise. Some of the response is clearly overreaction, but there are enough awful provisions in both bills to justify a strong response.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) introduced an alternative anti-pirating measure on Wednesday. It is a companion bill to legislation offered earlier by Ron Wyden (D-OR) in the senate. The Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act would allow copyright holders to file infringement complaints about foreign websites with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC would then investigate the complaints and decide whether U.S. payment processors and online advertising networks should be required to cut off funding.

Issa calls the legislation a “targeted, effective solution to the problem,” while Wyden wants the Senate to forgo debate on PIPA and work on “achieving an enduring and real agreement that combats copyright infringement without doing lasting harm to the Internet.”

Reconciling the need to protect intellectual property rights while maintaining a free and open Internet seems a contradiction at this point. The offending sites are almost all offshore and the problems documented above with enforcement and what amounts to censorship of the Internet make the proposed solutions injurious to liberty.

But perhaps there is a way forward. As Paul Rosenzweig of the Heritage Foundation writes, Congress “asks the right questions, but offers the wrong answers.” It is imperative for all concerned that we get it right because the alternatives are bad for both sides.

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  • MethanP

    The history of such attempts is one of trying to limit competition. When will they learn that prohibition never works.

  • Mickey Oberman

    The idea of entitlement proponents that one need not pay for a product or service could, in non politically correct terms, be called plagiarism or theft.
    They call it "limiting competition" and "prohibition".
    In fact it is smothering creativity and discouraging investment.

    What is needed are subscription web sites designed specifically and exclusively for those that want payment for their creations. The use of those creations by other sites should be treated and punished as a criminal offense.

    • Edohiguma

      "In fact it is smothering creativity and discouraging investment. "

      No it's not. The MPAA and RIAA aren't interested in creativity. They only care about their comfy thrones. SOPA and PIPA would effectively kill creativity. All it takes is a copyright claim. No evidence needed.

  • Alvaro

    You can't stop the Internet.

    • Michael11009

      the government v the internet is exactly what sopa was about

  • Edohiguma

    Both the MPAA and the RIAA are running outdated business models. Now new business models have appeared and both are missing out on it. So they come up with this nonsense.

    It's funny how the entertainment industry in other countries, Japan comes to mind, has adapted to these new ventures, but Hollywood effectively hasn't. No surprise there, Hollywood has been going downhill for several years by now.

    And remember this, the MPAA and RIAA have been whining about the VHS cassette and mp3 players in the past. They always claimed that these new systems (back then) would destroy their industry. They simply refuse to adapt to the changes and new technology. If they go under, then they deserve it.

    • Oleg

      I've been saying this to people ever since the debacle over Napster was in the headlines with the RIAA at least. The RIAA's business model is stuck in the 1940s when 78's were the main format. When radio came of age they whined, when FM came along they whined again until they figured out that radio airplay would promote record sales. Each time they came out with a new format they encouraged people to replace their record collection, especially when CDs came along, and raked in billions from it. Then after the CD became prominant came digital audio tape which they tried to quash to prevent home recording, but from under the radar came the internet which is also digital, just like the CDs they covinced everyone to buy. As the saying goes, the RIAA made their bed now they have to lie in it.

    • Oleg

      What offends me the most is the attitude of the MPAA, and the RIAA, they have the attitude that they should be able to hold copyrights to intelectual property in perpetuity, even if they didn't create the content and bought it or aquired it in some other way. The cutoff for copyrights used to be 75 years, now there are a whole host of go arounds that were made to accomodate Disney because the copyrights on early Mickey Mouse cartoons were due to go into public domain a few years back. How long has Walt Disney been dead, since 1966? Where is the incentive to create or come up with anything new if you can cash in on old work in perpetuity? They have also done away with the idea of fair usage, like if you film a TV show and a billboard shows up along a highway or a product is sitting on a kitchen table it was considered fair usage, now you need permission of you can be sued. I'm not condoning piracy like ripping off and profiting off of someone else's work but there has to be a ballance.

  • voted against carter

    As a "creative" (AD/GD/Illst. with 30 plus years experience) I for one DO NOT WANT the government regulating the internet under the guis of "protecting" me. PERIOD.

    This is just one MORE attempt by HollyWEIRD AND the Recording industry TRYING to turn back the clock and recreate THIER monopoly on content distribution AND creation.

    My suggestion is LEARN how to protect your OWN work.

    This legislation is ALL BAD.

  • Spider

    Even without SOPA 30,000 American families lives have been ruined by overzealous prosecutions using existing (draconian) copyright laws pushed through by the content lobby. This law won't stop Chinese Piracy because it can't. What it will do is give the government the power to shut down any website even suspected of a violation. The website and business owners could then be criminally prosecuted. This is as East German-esque (police state) as it gets. This article is the understatement of the century.

    • Oleg

      It's gotten so out of hand that on You Tube, for example, if you post a video demonstrating an eight track player by inserting a cassete and playing it they can take down the video or block the audio if you have any more then 30 seconds of a song. How is a video of an eight track player in operation in a room, playing through loudspeakers constitute music piracy?

  • hajid

    Like many government regulations, another one is coming up to kill innovation and restricting domestic businesses' growth.

    Instead of penalizing the offenders (individuals who actually put the pirated material on the web), the SOPA penalizes the service providers.

    Instead of teaching the next generation it's wrong to pirate (stealing), it teaches that with money you can buy fame and luxury. Instead of teaching our young to take care of needy and be generous, it teaches by cheating and stealing and depriving others, one can achieve his goals. Instead of trying to change people's hearts, it frames people withing cubes.

    With legislators and leaders like these, no wonder the once great nation is going down the drain!

  • Dalek

    Here's a idea for people. Just get the IP of any site you like to go to a lot and couldn't do without. If they remove it from the DNS server, just type in the number. Example, this is Googles IPs for my area: 74.125.159.104, 74.125.159.103, 74.125.159.105, 74.125.159.99, 74.125.159.147, 74.125.159.106. If you ever need to go to Google and it can't look it up, just type in the number and hit return. Any of those I listed above should work for Google.

    Don't know how to get the IP. If you use Firefox or something, look for the ShowIP addon. It will put the IP address at the bottom right corner for every site you go to. Just copy it in case you need it later.

    They haven't even voted yet and we have a way around this law.