Why Can't PROTECT IP Supporters Just Admit That It's About Censorship?
from the they-should dept
I finally got to listen to a recent episode of Jerry Brito’s excellent “Surprisingly Free” podcast, in which Brito spoke with law professor Derek Bambauer on how we could have a more intellectually honest discussion about the appropriateness of PROTECT IP, if its supporters would finally just admit that it’s a censorship bill. The talk was based on a new paper from Bambauer, Orwell’s Armchair, that compares “soft censorship” of the internet — using indirect methods, such as pressuring companies to stop working with Wikileaks, and “hard censorship,” in which the laws clearly censor content.
Bambauer isn’t arguing that PROTECT IP is bad, necessarily. In fact, he argues that “hard censorship” is preferable to soft censorship, in that at least what’s happening is upfront and clear, and that there are times when censorship might make sense. His main argument though, is that for there to be a rational and honest discussion about these things, everyone should first be willing to admit that PROTECT IP is absolutely about censorship, and then we can have a direct discussion on whether or not this form of censorship is appropriate.
He notes that supporters are afraid to admit this, and instead insist that it’s got nothing to do with censorship, because it’s about “stopping copyright infringement.” But, as he also notes, pretty much anywhere you see censorship, those who agree with it always couch it in other terms. Thus, South Korea blocking sites about North Korea is about protecting its own people. Various attempts around the world to censor child pornography are seen as reasonable attempts to stop child porn. And China’s political censorship has often been framed by the Chinese as protecting its citizens from dangerous ideas. But they’re all forms of censorship.
Bambauer, not surprisingly, is not confident that the debate will ever actually move in this direction. It’s just not politically expedient to do so. Of course, there’s potentially another reason: supporters of the bill know it’s about censorship, and they’re just embarrassed to admit that. So, denying that it’s censorship (and lashing out angrily at those who state the obvious) is just a way of compensating.