So, while I tend to focus on Florida politics here… I dabble in some national issues. One of those is our national policy towards freedom of communication.
Last year, the movie, television, music, and other entertainment industries came together and pushed legislation designed to protect their intellectual property — their copywritten material — from being illegally downloaded. This resulted in two bills filed in Congress: The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act in the Senate.
While these bills are well meaning, they overstep their bounds in significant ways.
How bad are they? Well, just about every Internet giant opposes them:
On November 15, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization’s enthusiastic support for SOPA. (Source: CNet)
What you are reading now, the words I typed for you, came out of my head. So I own them. If you wanted to reproduce this article, you would have to get my permission. That is how our laws protect people like me the MPAA, the RIAA, and other people who create content.
But the Digital Millenium Copyright Act has provisions to protect me. If I find someone has “stolen” my content, there are steps I can take to get it taken down or sue them to get reimbursed. The same is true for movie studios, television networks, and record companies.
But US law does not extend to sites like Pirate Bay — which is not based in the US and is (currently) housed on a server in Finland. The US court system cannot reach sites like Pirate Bay, so the backers of SOPA and PIPA want to use technology to block you from getting to these sites.
Now, most of you reading this will say: “So? This sounds like a good idea.” But wait… the provisions of SOPA and PIPA are so pervasive, that the site owners are presumed to be guilty until proven innocent. I quoted CNet above, using their content for what is considered “Fair Use” of their copywritten material. But under SOPA and PIPA, CNet could send a letter to Internet service providers and tell them to block access to my site.
The collateral damage would be widespread… and it would end the Internet was we know it.
So today, the White House, issued a release indicating their concerns: While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet..
Let’s all hope the White House is sending this message as a possible veto threat.