SOPA, PIPA would destroy Internet

Wikipedia participated in a coordinated Internet blackout Jan. 20.

Mark Schierbecker
Staff Writer

Federal lawmakers have come up with a flummoxing way of defeating online piracy.

Two proposed pieces of legislation, the U.S. House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), aim to combat piracy by taking down websites accused of violating intellectual property (IP) rights.

By allowing copyright owners to immediately pursue litigation for alleged infringement, SOPA would eliminate “safe harbor” provisions that owners ask websites to remove infringing content. By doing this, websites that do not police content submitted by users would be held criminally liable for illegal content. YouTube, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Flickr and Vimeo, who all accept content submitted or uploaded by users, would either have to stop accepting content or be shut down by the U.S. Attorney General.

The proposed legislation would force foreign websites into compliance by making search engines remove them from their indexes.

Creating legal barriers that cause a “chilling effect” on Internet startups by creating legal hazards and ambiguities will accomplish the opposite of the stated task of promoting innovation. It will have a radical impact on the economy by ravaging e-commerce and discouraging investment in Web startups.

SOPA certainly does its job well when it comes to destroying the Internet but actually does little to stop piracy. Any piracy website can easily set up a new website under a different web address.

Once again, legislators have demonstrated complete ignorance of the way the Web works. They are punishing the wrong people by criminalizing lawful website activities.

Legislators need to find other means of enforcing copyrights and enact saner alternatives put forth by Internet and IP experts. IP should be protected through better enforcement of the arsenal of laws that already exist.

After a successful coordinated Internet blackout protest led by Wikipedia on Jan. 18, 18 senators, including six sponsors, dropped their support of PIPA. SOPA and PIPA have been shelved for the foreseeable future by Rep. Lamar Smith and Sen. Harry Reid.

The fight against these bills must not rest however. These bills will return when the Internet returns to its normal complacency and powerful lobby groups renew their committal to commercializing the Internet.

The most effective way to counteract this is for constituents to let their representatives know their views. Sen. Claire McCaskill can be reached at 202-224-6154, and Rep. Russ Carnahan can be reached at 202-225-2671.

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