SOPA and Why I’m Against it

23:52 Sun 22 Jan 2012
[, , , ]

Earlier this week I “blacked out” tadhg.com as part of the widespread protests against SOPA. This post includes a number of my reasons for opposing it.

  1. The legislation allows for ex parte hearings to be held to determine whether or not sites accused of a dizzying array of vague things could be taken down. It’s a rather stupid idea to give any schmuck with a lawyer the ability to yank sites from the web.
  2. Building a censorship mechanism into the Internet—which the bill would have required—isn’t something I would ever support.
  3. I’m much more willing to risk copyright infringement in order to facilitate free speech than I am to risk restricting free speech in aid of reducing copyright infringement.
  4. Unlike Lamar Smith, I believe that if 25% of the Internet’s traffic really is “infringing content”, then the laws should be changed to decriminalize what a substantial number of people believe is acceptable behavior, and not to pursue enforcement strategies in order to impose behavioral controls[1].
  5. Copyright holders have sufficient—or too many—rights and remedies available to them already, and further social engineering to add to those rights and remedies are unnecessary and harmful.

At root, I see this as an issue of control, and I’m naturally inclined towards agitating for less control rather than more. The benefits brought by a less-regulated Internet are obvious.

Furthermore, I have little trust or liking for those who pushed for this legislation, partly because they habitually lie (particularly about things like how much money they supposedly lose to copyright infringement, but also about things like how much money their movies make), have been consistently wrong in the past about the harms new technologies would do to their industries (e.g. Disney and the VCR), and generally act like control freaks and constantly try to push the bounds of how far they can push that control (such as the NFL claiming in broadcasts that “any … descriptions, or accounts of this game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited”). They exert too much control on our culture as it is, and I have no desire to give them any more.

The boycott attracted some attention, and achieved the short-term goal of delaying SOPA. It’s inevitable that they’ll be back, and effectively fighting measures like this one will require more than symbolic gestures. Constant defensive maneuvers are bound to fail, and without some kind of offensive action (such as threatening to pass legislation to cut the copyright term, cut the penalties for infringement, or enshrine fair use and other copyright exceptions in law so that they are easily usable rather that being fraught with risk) the bill’s constituency will have all the time needed to eventually prevail.

Getting into that, however, requires dealing with the legislative process and its various flaws, which is clearly too large a topic for this post.

[1] This is not a fundamental rule; there are clearly situations where large swathes of societies engage in behavior that’s indefensible. This is not one of those situations.

Leave a Reply