Sunday, January 22, 2012

SOPA and PIPA Must Be Stopped

Congress is debating the new SOPA and PIPA legislation aimed at making it easier for the government to combat online copyright infringement. In case you live under a rock, SOPA and PIPA are the two pieces of legislation that its supporters argue would enable the government to help stop online copyright piracy, and its detractors say would amount to Internet censorship. I fall in that "detractors" category.
You have to look at legislation intended to combat crime from the worst case scenario. These laws are always abused. Show me any law ever passed to combat crime, and I will show you a law that has been abused by the government to exceed the reaches of what it was intended for. In other words, they always say "this law is only so we can go after the really bad guys" until it's passed. After that, all bets are off.
So, worst case, SOPA and PIPA allow the government not only to shut down any website that they can argue is "facilitating" infringement, they can also effectively seize the assets of those sites. Facilitating infringement? Let's think about that. Megaupload is accused of facilitating infringement. What does it mean to "facilitate" infringement? Does Comcast "facilitate" infringement by providing you access to a pirate site? Does Microsoft facilitate infringement by providing you with a free browser that you use to access that site? How far can this go? I guarantee you, if SOPA and PIPA pass, the government will start inventing ways in which companies "facilitate" infringement.
And what about the money? Isn't that really what this is all about? It has to be, because no one has ever argued that the actual master recordings of anything have ever been stolen. So, of course, SOPA and PIPA allow the government to seize all the assets of the website operators. Not just money, everything. In the Megaupload case, the government was happy to seize Kim Dotcom's shotguns and luxury cars. Here's what many media outlets are saying:
Police seize guns, millions in Megaupload case
Now think about that. That's not the media trying to spin a story is it? Police seize guns in Megaupload case. Guns? Really? Surely the media aren't trying to paint a picture of some gun-toting bandits hiding out in the woods for the first opportunity to jump out and rob you blind of your. . . . your . . .. copyrights. Really?
And also keep in mind that these things were done without SOPA or PIPA. So if the U.S. Government can already swoop in and shut down a foreign website just for "facilitating" infringement, and seize all the assets of the operators of that website, including their "guns," then why do we need SOPA and PIPA? I think they've gone too far already with the Megaupload arrests. The government certainly doesn't need more power, far from it. We need to start reigning in these drunk-with-power do-gooders and get a handle on what is really going on here.
If any area needs closer legal scrutiny, it's private lobbyists. We need to be looking much closer at the apparently improper influence that the entertainment industry has on both our lawmakers and our law enforcers. The fact that the entertainment industry can use our government as its own private law enforcement vehicle scares the shit out of me. This has got to stop.