Try to imagine jack-booted thugs throttling free speech, poisoning the Internet (greatest of American inventions, the very pillar of modern democracy), and devastating one of the our most successful industries. Totalitarian, anti-American, massively-job-killing nonsense.
Beyond damaging free speech and the internet, bills like SOPA and PIPA damage industry by reinforcing an untenable faith in the status quo, and an equally untenable fear of innovation. It reveals a mindset that continues to hold back media companies as they vie to compete on the new platforms that have already transformed their businesses, ready or not.
If that was the only harm in this legislation, we might write it off as another big media business blunder. But this time, itâ€™s more than that. Hollywoodâ€™s right to make bad business decisions stops at the point where it threatens our freedom of speech.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressed opposition to the bill, as well as Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX), who joined nine Democrats to sign a letter to other House members warning that the bill would cause “an explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation.” “Issa said the legislation is beyond repair and must be rewritten from scratch,” reported The Hill.
The vague and technology-ignorant language in this pending legislation opens a huge number of doors for different interpretations. When you take this broad language and use it to grant powers to both the Attorney General and plaintiffs like the MPAA and RIAA, you create a system that is begging to be abused. Given the history of abuse of laws like the DMCA, it has become obvious that institutions like the RIAA can and will stretch laws to the breaking point, often while suffering no repercussions.
SOPA & PIPA don’t attack the real problem, do nothing to build up the services that do solve the problem, and won’t work from a technological standpoint. And that’s just if we look at the what these bills are supposed to do. The real fear is the massive collateral damage these bills will have to jobs, the economy and innovation.
All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but these bills are particularly egregious in that regard because they cause entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under these proposals. In fact, it seems that this has already begun to happen under the nascent DHS/ICE seizures program.
Censorship of Internet infrastructure will inevitably cause network errors and security problems. This is true in China, Iran and other countries that censor the network today; it will be just as true of American censorship.