Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Is The Wrong Solution

In their effort to stop online piracy the U.S. government is once again asking for the broadest possible reach. It's called the Stop Online Piracy Act, and it essentially gives the government free reign to shut down any web site which is accused (not proven guilty) of dealing in any copyrighted material.

The move is meant as a protection for copyright holders, but it smacks of censorship.

Why? Because in America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Not the other way around. Yet SOPA allows the government to take action regardless of who makes the accusation, or whether or not the accusation is valid.

Under SOPA anyone would be allowed to make an accusation against a website and have that site immediately shut-down, before the accusation is proven valid. It would also give the U.S. government the ability to shut down any web site it wants to shut down, regardless of whether or not an accusation has been made. This means the government could easily widen its reach to include web sites it finds offensive, unpatriotic or a "threat to national security."

Do we really need or want the government to have this type of power over our lives? Is it not enough to use the existing judicial system to redress grievances?
I'm pretty sure Disney doesn't have a problem filing and winning lawsuits against people who use the Mickey Mouse image or name without proper permission (and have paid a fee.)

Oh wait, I said "Mickey Mouse" without permission. Under SOPA anyone who reads this post could then report me to the government and my site would be shut down. No matter that I am in no way trying to usurp control of Mickey Mouse, nor am I trying to make money off the name "Mickey Mouse".

It seems to me SOPA would open the floodgates on people with an axe to grind--looking for ways to have web sites they don't like shut down. It is also sending a chill through our growing Internet industry. Companies don't like knowing the government has total control over their prosperity. That's why they are loathe to do business in places like China.

However, with SOPA in place the U.S. will have even more control over intellectual properties than even China has now. We will lead the world in our ability to censor the freedoms of our citizens.

And that's nothing to be proud of, much less support.

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