Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Republicans supporting "Stop Online Piracy Act"

Hey Republicans, what happened to all the "less government" talk? If you really mean that, we're with you. But time and time again it seems that you pick and choose your ideology depending on the issue.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced in the House of Representatives on October 26 by Texas Republican Lamar Smith. The bill's aim is to fight intellectual property infringement online but it puts a huge burden on domain owners and gives the government power to force Internet Service Providers to blacklist domain addresses.

For example, let's say there's a picture hosting website in Japan called which allows users all over the world to post pictures to share with their family and friends. And let's say that 1 member of the site (out of millions) submits a picture of a diagram that is copyrighted by someone else. If this bill were to become law, the government would then be able to force Internet Services Providers like Time Warner, AT&T, & Comcast to prevent people from visiting the entire website altogether. If you tried to visit to check out your friend's latest photos, you'd get an error message on your browser.

The same could easily happen to sites like Youtube. With the millions of user-submitted videos on there, the government could easily find an example of copyright infringement - all the justification it would need to shut the whole thing down.

From Wikipedia:

The bill would allow the court to order Internet service providers, “payment network providers,” search engines, and advertising services to take “technically feasible and reasonable measures” to cut off these illegal foreign infringing sites in their respective fields. Internet service providers would be required to modify their DNS look-up servers to return an empty response for these sites, making them virtually inaccessible, while search engines would need to filter results linking to such sites.
The remaining provisions of Title I allow for voluntary actions to deny services to rogue sites and to sites selling prescription medication without requiring a prescription or where the drugs are adulterated or misbranded.
The bill would require internet service providers to filter DNS queries of offending websites, rendering them unresolvable.

Are there bad things on the internet? Sure. Does copyright infringement take place online? Yes. But we must ask ourselves, is it worth regulating the internet and giving the government more power just to go after a couple copyright infringers? Don't we already have processes in place for copyright owners to go after those who infringe? Why do we need to hand over additional blanket controls to the government? The government should not ever be able to force an internet service provider to block an entire website. If the government has a legitimate beef with a copyright infringer then it needs to deal directly with that person.

Internet Service providers should not have to be put in a position to police their customers or deny access to particular websites. Isn't this what sets us apart from countries like China? We all seem to agree that it's a bad thing when the Chinese government cuts off access to certain websites. So why are we voluntarily headed down that road ourselves? A few cases of copyright infringement isn't enough justification to give the government that much power, just as the fear of terrorism isn't enough justification for us to give up our rights in order to feel safe. And in both instances it's the supposed "less government" Republicans leading the way.

Currently the Stop Online Piracy Act is supported by these representatives:

Lamar Smith [R-TX]
Howard Berman [D-CA]
Marsha Blackburn [R-TN]
Mary Bono Mack [R-CA]
Steve Chabot [R-OH]
John Conyers [D-MI]
Ted Deutch [D-FL]
Elton Gallegly [R-CA]
Bob Goodlatte [R-VA]
Timothy Griffin [R-AR]
Dennis A. Ross [R-FL]
Adam Schiff [D-CA]
Lee Terry [R-NE]

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