Why the Stop Online Piracy Act is a Bad Law

A Nov. 26th, 2011 editorial in the NY Times explains why the H.R.3261 also known as the Stop Online Piracy Act ("SOPA") is too broad.

SOPA would allow the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against any so-called "rogue site" (generally any offshore web site accused of copyright infringement by any IP owner) that would result in making that site disappear from US Internet providers:

"A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order...Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order."

In other words, SOPA provides for an Internet death penalty.

And many sites (the next YouTube or Wikipedia?) would be up for execution.

Supporting the bill is a powerful group of lobbyists, representing large owners of intellectual property, including the Motion Picture Association of America ("MPAA").

Opposing the Internet-killing SOPA is a growing and ideologically diverse list of elected officials and several web-innovation giants, including Yahoo, Google, Facebook and the Consumer Electronics Association. The opponents to SOPA say the law would give the government too much power to shut down Web sites accused of pirating or counterfeiting content.

As they did in 1982 - when they went to Congress to ban the VCR - the MPAA is overplaying the threat from a new technology and advocating for a draconian and un-American solution.

Even arch-conservative Rep. Darrell Issa, (R- Calif.) found reason to chastise the supporters of the SOPA bill (like the MPAA that tried to sidestep the First Amendment issues of banning a website based on a single complaint) after a Nov. 16th, 2011 Congressional hearing: "[T]hey can’t just use Google as a piñata and bash on it here.”

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