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:
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
- 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.
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!