On Tuesday, January 24th, the U.S. Senate is slated to vote on the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). Together with its counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)*, it seeks to curtail online bootlegging from overseas websites via several means:
- It gives the U.S. government the power to force internet service providers to block access sites that traffic in bootlegged (or, in the words of the bill's proponents, pirated) content.
- The government could also sue search engines and other websites to prevent them from linking to such sites.
- U.S. credit card companies and advertisers would be required to cancel their accounts with those sites so as to cut off their sources of funding.
- It prescribes jail sentences for users who post copyrighted works or links to infringing sites.
We here at Populi oppose these two bills for a number of reasons. Our chief concerns:
- They extend considerable powers to the U.S. government to shut down sites that the beneficiary corporations consider "infringing".
- They allow corporations to sue the owners of such "infringing" sites.
- The bills are draconian: the government could block sites like Facebook and Twitter if just one user posted just one link to an infringing site.
- The smallest infraction runs afoul of the bill's harshest measures.
- Perhaps worst of all: the bills destabilize the Domain Name System (DNS), one of the key methods used to make the internet secure and at all trustworthy.
We care about the internet—it lets us serve our customers and earn a living, after all—and PIPA and SOPA are foolish, short-sighted pieces of legislation that will do great harm to it.
* SOPA was shelved on January 16th, which means that the House won't vote on it. It is currently very wounded, but not dead.