Stop the Stop Online Piracy Act

Glenn Reynolds has been doing a lot to educate people about the Stop Online Piracy Act and its Senate equivalent. Google has now weighed in. A letter I sent to Lamar Smith a couple of weeks ago:

I am a long-time supporter who has voted for you in every election since you’ve been my representative. I am writing to urge your to reconsider your sponsorship of the Stop Online Piracy Act. I have no quarrel with your goal. But the idea of letting the highly politicized Obama Department of Justice censor U.S. web sites terrifies me. I have five worries about the breadth of the Act:

1. The burden of proof is stacked heavily against individuals and web sites against which an action might be brought.

2. The prospect of legal action could harm significantly perfectly legitimate Internet-related businesses, from the smallest to the largest (e.g., Google, Facebook, and various blog hosting companies). This could harm the Austin economy, not to mention the U.S. economy, at a time when it can’t afford any additional burdens.

3. The Obama DOJ could use this Act to shut down opposition web sites on thin grounds. I have a blog devoted to conservative politics; I never intentionally violate anyone’s copyright. But passage of this Act would make me shut it down preemptively, because I could not afford to risk the possibility that a complaint might be brought because I might have used an image or graph improperly, linked to the wrong website, etc.

4. Whether or not the Act is misused in that fashion, it seems clear that the Obama DOJ will enforce the Act prejudicially, using it to extort contributions from internet firms and bringing action against them if they do not comply. (See Gibson Guitars.) Please do not give Eric Holder and his minions power over the internet.

5. I’m an amateur musician; I like to post songs my band does on Facebook. There are no legitimate copyright issues; these are either original compositions or original arrangements of traditional spirituals and hymns that are in the public domain. But I fear that, in response to the Act, hosting services will not permit such postings, or will require such extensive paperwork that publicizing our work in this way will be impractical.

Thank you for listening to my concerns.

 So far no reply….

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