Over 100 Lawyers, Law Professors & Practitioners Come Out Against SOPA

from the serious-concerns dept

Supporters of SOPA keep tossing out Floyd Abrams' name as if it's some talisman, and that his word is final. Last I checked, Floyd Abrams is not the Supreme Court. Indeed, he's not even one of the nine justices. Or a judge at all. And his opinion is just one -- well respected -- lawyer's opinion. In fact, Abrams opinion concerning SOPA isn't even his own unbiased opinion. His opinion was written on behalf of his clients, including the MPAA and other lobbyists in favor of SOPA. And, even then, Abrams still admitted that SOPA would lead to the suppression of protected content. Either way, there are other lawyers out there, many of whom are just as well respected as Mr. Abrams. And when over 100 such lawyers get together and speak out against SOPA, perhaps one might come to the conclusion that Abrams' opinion on the legal aspects is one in the minority. This letter is a followup to the letter sent earlier about PROTECT IP, but noting that SOPA didn't fix any of the problems, and actually made many of them worse:
While there are some differences between SOPA and PROTECT-­IP, nothing in SOPA makes any effort to address the serious constitutional, innovation, and foreign policy concerns that we expressed in that letter. Indeed, in many respects SOPA is even worse than PROTECT-­IP. Among other infirmities, it would:
  • Redefine the standard for copyright infringement on the Internet, changing the definition of inducement in a way that would not only conflict with Supreme Court precedent but would make YouTube, Google, and numerous other web sites liable for copyright infringement.
  • Allow the government to block Internet access to any web site that "facilitated" copyright or trademark infringement -- a term that the Department of Justice currently interprets to require nothing more than having a link on a web page to another site that turns out to be infringing.
  • Allow any private copyright or trademark owner to interfere with the ability of web sites to host advertising or charge purchases to credit cards, putting enormous obstacles in the path of electronic commerce.
Most significantly, it would do all of the above while violating our core tenets of due process. By failing to guarantee the challenged web sites notice or an opportunity to be heard in court before their sites are shut down, SOPA represents the most ill-advised and destructive intellectual property legislation in recent memory.

In sum, SOPA is a dangerous bill. It threatens the most vibrant sector of our economy -- Internet commerce. It is directly at odds with the United States' foreign policy of Internet openness, a fact that repressive regimes will seize upon to justify their censorship of the Internet. And it violates the First Amendment.
But... but... Floyd Abrams!

Filed Under: copyright, due process, first amendment, lawyers, pipa, professors, scholars, sopa

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Nov 2011 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re:

    I am at all saying that. Mine are but two points.

    1. The number of law professors who "sign on" to a letter does not automatically translate into all of them agreeing with every point made. "Coat tail" riding in academia is ubiquitous, especially when it can be added to one's CV.

    2. The letter authored by the three named individuals bears no relationship to what would otherwise be a professional legal opinion. I urge you to read the letter again, only this time look at each of its three sections and ask yourself if they are presenting substantive or conclusory arguments.

    Their First Amendment "analysis" is devoid of substance and the scholarship they each profess to pursue.

    The DNS "analysis" is completely outside their area of expertise. They rely entirely on a quote from another author, and provide no insight into how this fits within the law. It would have been better had they simply omitted this portion since it comes across as little more than arm waving.

    The remainder of their letter, and the one they argue most strenuously, is one of policy. Distilled to its essence, what it really says it that "This diminishes our standing in the world as the beacon of free expression. Other countries that have repressive regimes will use it to validate their truncating expression they do not approve of." Of course, it bears mentioning that the bills before Congress are content neutral, and focus only on matters material to the enforcement of copyright law. It also bears mentioning that a long history of judicial precedent recognizes and affirms that copyright law has been balanced to incorporate legitimate First Amendment concerns.

    From the perspective of a lawyer, their letter would have carried far more persuasive force had they addressed and dissected the points presented in Mr. Abrams' letter. Why they elected to do otherwise makes no sense to me.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.