January 23, 2012

The actors in the soap opera that is SOPA and PIPA are getting a bit full of themselves. If you haven't been following this saga, these two bills, ham-handed attempts to stop online content piracy, prompted Google, Wikipedia, and a bunch of other sites to black out their logos or temporarily shut down in protest. SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act, the House version) and PIPA (Protect IP Act, the Senate version) are said to threaten free speech, the future of innovation, the technical infrastructure of the Internet, and the economic foundation of the global economy. Wrote one wag: "Big content is quite literally trying to foist its own version of the Great Firewall of China on to the American public." Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!

For another example of the overwrought reactions, consider the public statement from blog site Boing Boing, which shut itself down on Jan. 18 to protest the two Congressional bills: "We could not ever link to another website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we'd have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren't in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits."

I'm not here to defend SOPA or PIPA. If, as their critics maintain, the bills effectively give ISPs, search engines, and payment services carte blanche to cut off foreign websites that U.S. movie, music, and other content creators merely claim are profiting from their stolen goods, then the legislation is an abomination.

But due process still exists in this country, so I have trouble believing that the courts will sit on their hands while a fundamental constitutional principle is violated.

To read the entire original article, visit InformationWeek.