PROTECT IP / SOPA's threat to political blogs

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Two similar bills targeting online piracy, the PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (HR 3261), threaten free speech by putting unprecedented and unchecked power in the hands of the Attorney General, according to an analysis in Conservative Daily News. Under the current circumstances, with the Left in control of the Department of Justice, these bills, if passed into law, would be a particular threat to conservative blogs and websites:

The most catching part of SOPA, is that it allows the Department of Justice, run by Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder mind you, to pursue court orders for websites "outside" of US jurisdiction accused of enabling or hosting pirated content on their website.... Once a court order is obtained, the Attorney General could then direct a US web based companies to suspend business with the company or face the possibility of federal prosecution. The AG would also have the ability to direct search engines from blocking the IP in a search. The bill would also make it a felony to stream unauthorized copyrighted content.

...Can't you see it now? All the liberals will be scouring the Internet, with the music and movie industry's best interest at heart no doubt, looking at every conservative blog and website they can find regardless of importance with sole purpose of locating "pirated" content.... The Justice Department will request the court order to shut that blog down with the individual facing the potential of fines and restitution. Not a bad way to break the spirit. Lets not forget about all the new litigation that will ensue.

Blogs regularly make fair use of small excerpts of copyrighted material for the purpose of comment, and it would be easy enough for the DOJ to misconstrue that fair use as theft of intellectual property. Once shutdown, a website owner would have to go to great expense to reverse the DOJ block; in the meantime, his point of view is blocked from the internet.

The threat is bigger than the possibility of a leftist DOJ blocking conservative sites. Liberals should be concerned that some future administration could use PROTECT IP / SOPA to target their websites. It's not hard to imagine allies of Orrin Hatch, the Senator from Disney, using this law to shut down blogs promoting his conservative primary challenger. PROTECT IP / SOPA would be another tool in the tool box, along with SLAPP suits, for well-funded crony-capitalist cabals of both parties to shut down bloggers who oppose and expose them.

I'm happy to see that no Oklahoma legislators are sponsoring these bills; I hope they will oppose them vigorously. While most of the Senate sponsors are either Democrats or squishy RINOs (like Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain), I'm disappointed to see names of conservatives like Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the list. The support is somewhat understandable based on the stated intent of the bill -- to protect businesses that have invested in intellectual property from piracy -- but no amount of good intentions can make up for putting internet blacklisting power in the hands of one politically appointed official.

The best way for the music and movie industries to dampen down piracy is to make their content more easily and affordably available. If someone can watch episodes of a long-gone but favorite TV series on Netflix, or pay for and download MP3s of an out-of-print album from Amazon, they won't go hunting for pirated copies online.

Call your senators and congressman and urge them to oppose this threat to free speech. I consider these bills a key vote for determining my future support.

MORE: No article on online piracy is complete without "The IT Crowd" parody of anti-piracy warnings.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 26, 2011 12:56 PM.

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