The opposition to legislation like the the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) keeps growing and now includes the Obama administration. A blog post from the White House on Saturday recognizes the “very real issue of online piracy” and the huge need to “develop new legal tools to protect global intellectual property rights.” But such cannot be done at the risk of online censorship and at the expense of “[inhibiting] innovation by our dynamics businesses large and small.” Legislation like the House’s SOPA, the Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) and the Online Protection and Digital Enforcement Act (OPEN) all run the risk of curtailing, with potentially disastrous results, freedom of expression on the internet as we know it:
Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.
We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet.
As the White House’s statement makes clear, there is no question that online piracy must be addressed, especially by foreign websites and “rogue websites and other criminals who make money off the creative efforts of American artists and rights holders.” The Obama administration has also called for a conference call with leaders of the anti-SOPA effort.
Other politicians have been responding, too: On Friday, Rep. Chairman Lamar Smith (R.-Texas), one of the biggest backers of SOPA, said that he would remove a provision requiring that Internet service providers block access to overseas websites accused of piracy. The day before, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), said that he would strip PIPA of all Domain Name System blocking.
While these are signs of progress in the effort to stop SOPA and the other bills, the (lobbying) power of the entertainment industry cannot be underestimated. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) both support SOPA and similar legislation. Reddit is still planning its anti-SOPA blackout this Wednesday, January 18.
Anonymous, the loosely organized hacker collective, joined in on Saturday in an effort called “Operation Hiroshima” by posting the personal information of media executives online. Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, has received “intimidating phone calls and a barrage of e-mails”; personal details about Sumner M. Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation, have also been posted. The online documents released by Anonymous also contain corporate contact information for NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.
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