Washington Post Column Incredulous That Congress Is Considering Censoring The Internet

from the mainstream-america-is-waking-up dept

It appears that more and more in mainstream America are waking up to the horrors of SOPA and PROTECT IP. Dominic Basulto, writing in the Washington Post notes that the debate over SOPA sends an "ugly message" to the rest of the world about the US:
Imagine a country where the government is able to shut down Web sites at the slightest provocation, where elected representatives invoke fears of "overseas pirates" to defend the interests of domestic industries, and where Internet companies like Google must cave in to the demands of government censors or risk being shut down.

No, we are not talking about China, North Korea or Iran we are talking about the United States, where legislators in both the House and Senate are attempting to push through new anti-piracy legislation by year-end that would benefit Hollywood at the expense of Silicon Valley.
Basulto also makes the point clearly. Supporters are "[confusing] 'piracy protection' and 'censorship.'"

He goes on to point out that this also shows "the failure on the part of lawmakers to understand how the Internet works."
This new legislation, if enacted, would strike at the very core of the way the Internet has been structured. Sharing, openness, and participation are at the core of what the Internet represents. When it comes to a choice between an open Internet and an Internet of walled gardens patrolled by government censors, there is no doubt which is preferable. As Booz & Co. pointed out in a recent study, the SOPA legislation could lead to a decline in Internet innovation.

The Chinese government attempts to portray dissidents as "pirates" and "rogues" outside the system. Entertainment interests are taking a similar approach, and have found what they consider to be the perfect bogeymen: the "rogue" sites and "overseas pirates" who steal content and make it available elsewhere on the Internet at a cheaper price. Under the cover of protecting intellectual property and making the Internet safe again for users, they risk destroying what makes the Internet so special and attractive to innovators and investors alike.
A really strong piece in a very mainstream source. This isn't just about a few "pirates" complaining -- as SOPA defenders would have you believe. This is a widespread recognition that censorship and massive regulation of the internet, just because Hollywood refuses to adapt, is not in anyone's best interest.

Filed Under: censorship, dominic basulto, mainstream press, sopa

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  1. icon
    Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), 18 Nov 2011 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The main reason that I would argue that SOPA is a censorship bill as opposed to simply a bill focused on the removal of infringing content is that the bill is agnostic to the collateral damage when uninfringing (not sure if that's a word, but it is now) content is removed as well.

    Let's take the example of a sport blog to illustrate. Here we have tons of protected free speech where people talk about their favorite teams or players, and plenty of trash talking about the opposing teams to keep it lively. Now let's say that one of the users starts a thread about how stupid it is that he lives in a blackout zone and can't watch his favorite team play a game later this evening. In response to this someone tries to help him out and posts a link to justin.tv where he will be able to stream the game live and not miss the game. The content owners get wind of this link and decide to react to it...

    Under current law, the link could be removed with a DMCA takedown notice and the rest of the blog would continue on its merry uninfringing way.

    Under SOPA, the content industry could have it blocked on a DNS level and force any payment processors to not deal with the site. This effectively kills the entire site. When access to all of that uninfringing speech is removed to stop access to a legitimately infringing link, censorship has occurred.

    It's possible that we just have a different understanding of the definition of censorship, but at least we agree on the important issue: that the language of SOPA is extremely troubling and ripe for abuse.

    If you'd like to read up a bit on why others also believe this bill to be about promoting government sponsored censorship, here is a link to a prior article: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111014/03284916352/why-cant-protect-ip-supporters-just-admit-that -its-about-censorship.shtml There is a link to a paper published by Derek Bambauer on this exact issue (although it is aimed at PIPA). Unfortunately the article is a paid download.

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