Will the government be able to censor the web if the bills pass?
That’s the crux of the debate. Google and First Amendment scholars like Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe argue that SOPA would squelch free speech by giving private parties power to effectively cripple sites that allegedly — but not conclusively — steal copyrighted content. The simple filing of a complaint, they say, would exert huge pressure on the Internet ecosystem to blacklist an accused site. They also say it would give the feds dangerous new powers to go after sites for political reasons.
Nonsense, supporters say. The bills, they say, are narrowly crafted to target overseas sites that are “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” Web companies are resorting to hyperbole and hysteria to maintain the status quo, backers argue.
It is said (though I’ve not found the source) that Einstein once remarked that if given 60 minutes to save the world, he would spend 55 of them defining the problem. And defining the problem means collecting and studying real evidence, not the overblown claims of an industry that has fought the introduction of every new technology that has turned out, in the end, to grow their business rather than threaten it.
P.S. If Congress and the White House really want to fight pirates who are hurting the economy, they should be working to rein in patent trolls. There, the evidence of economic harm is clear, in multi-billion dollar transfers of wealth from companies building real products to those who have learned how to work the patent system while producing no value for consumers.