Earlier this month there was an amazing groundswell of opposition to SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I participated in a 1-day anticensorship campaign designed to bring awareness to the proposed law, as did thousands of others around the country. It has been reported that this groundswell of opposition caught many in Congress by surprise.
In an interesting turn of events, SOPA’s parent — the PROTECT-IP Act in the U.S. Senate — may come up for vote on the Senate floor this week. (PROTECT-IP, in case you are wondering, is an acronym for “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011”.) This bill still contains many of the same troublesome definitions and technical issues of SOPA, and it deserves to be blocked as well. Senator Wyden of Oregon submitted a statement to the U.S. House hearing on SOPA warns of severe repercussions to a free and open internet if SOPA and PROTECT-IP were passed, and he has said he will filibuster an attempt to pass this in the Senate.
You, too, can use the form on the Stop Censorship website to ask Senator Wyden to read aloud your name as part of the filibuster act and/or have your name submitted into the official Congressional Record. (I’ve done this myself and have tweeted about it.) I have also used the Contact Congress feature of OpenCongress to register my opposition with my U.S. Senators, even though one is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Why I Oppose PROTECT-IP Act and SOPA
These reasons for opposing the PROTECT-IP Act are the same as what I listed in my earlier post on SOPA. Two overriding reasons. First, I think the content creation industry already has enough tools in their arsenal for it to go after legitimate infringements of their rights. That aside, there is a more fundamental reason: this law meddles with the foundational structures of the internet (the Domain Name System in particular), and that can have unexpected consequences. The Cybersecurity in the Balance: Weighing the Risks of the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act paper from the Brookings Institution goes into more detail about the latter reason. This reasoning is also why I oppose interception proxy servers (such as those that filter or modify web page content) — they break the net. The power of the internet has been — and should continue to be — the transparent, end-to-end nature of the net that enables and promotes creative innovation at the edges of the network. PROTECT-IP and SOPA would add complexity and cloudiness to the core of the internet.
This is a tough battle, though. OpenCongress has a blog post from last week about Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are So Hard to Kill that points to a graphic from the end of a Politico article where writer Jennifer Martinez outlines the careful lobbying and spending by the film, music and TV industries over the past few years to grease the wheels for their goals behind SOPA and PROTECT-IP. These are strong forces behind the passage. I hope the voices of Americans are enough to cause senators to back off passage. If you feel the same way I do, I encourage you to let your state’s senators know of our opinion.(This post was updated on 03-Jan-2016.)