Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee is going to vote on H.R.3261, the Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA for short. As I have previously outlined, this legislation would destroy the internet as we know it and severely impinge on free speech and the spread of information.
If this passes committee, which all indications say it likely will, it could be voted on by the whole of the House of Representatives at any time.
Individuals and corporations both large and small are stepping up to fight back against the draconian SOPA legislation and the Senate’s sister legislation, the PROTECT IP Act.
However, there is a significant lobby that is pushing back against the tide of freedom and liberty in an attempt to severely restrict the internet.
As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pointed out in a Congressional hearing, SOPA will restrict non-infringing online content right along with the infringing content the bill is supposedly aimed at combating.
“By contemplating an order that effectively bars others from gaining access to both infringing and non-infringing content, the proposed statute goes beyond appropriate First Amendment free speech protections,” the ACLU said.
The wildly restrictive SOPA legislation would essentially make it impossible for some of the largest websites on the internet to operate in any way that is remotely familiar to the climate we have known.
Any social media website that allows users to freely post content could be shut down at any time if any infringing content is posted on the site.
This means that all of YouTube, all of Twitter, all of Facebook, all free blog hosts, etc. could be forced to close down if a single individual posts infringing content.
This is China-style internet censorship on steroids; it is so astoundingly oppressive that there has been a blatant disinformation war waged against those who seek to keep the internet free.
However, little bits of truth sneak out here and there, with Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and former Senator, letting out a shocking admission which gives a glimpse into the minds of those who support the destruction of one of the last vestiges of true freedom in America.
“When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn’t do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites,” Dodd said.
A similar sentiment was echoed by Senator Joe Lieberman last year when he was promoting his so-called “internet kill switch” legislation.
“Right now, China – the government – can disconnect parts of its internet in a case of war. We need to have that here too,” Lieberman said at the time.
Dodd leveraged the emotionally charged example of how internet service providers (ISPs) already block content like child pornography as proof that the notion of blocking websites is not unprecedented.
While this is true, Dodd is either knowingly misrepresenting the legislation or he is simply ignorant as to what it actually allows.
While no sane person advocates the spread of child pornography, extending the example to legislation which could force a site to shut down if a copyright holder reported anything ranging from a picture copied without paying licensing fees to a teenage girl singing along to Katy Perry is patently ridiculous.
In a recent interview at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers conference, Dodd further proved himself to have little to no understanding of the legislation he is promoting or even the most basic of logical faculties.
“How do you justify a search engine providing for someone to go and steal something?” Dodd asked. “A guy that drives the getaway car didn’t rob the bank necessarily, but they got you to the bank and they got you out of it, so they are accessories in my view.”
Upon reading Dodd’s statement – which amounts to what might pass for an analogy in a special needs kindergarten classroom – I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
If we apply the bank robbery analogy to the SOPA legislation, it would not be that you’re going after the driver of the getaway car, but instead you’d be going after the company that manufactured the car, the company that produced the gasoline that powered the car, the manufacturer of the tires on the car, etc.
This would be like going after a gun manufacturer after someone uses one of their guns to commit a robbery.
It would also be like going after the manufacturer of a burlap sack that a bank robber used to load money into before running out of the bank.
What Dodd and others are promoting is not just penalizing the thieves – those actually responsible for the crime – but instead penalizing those who were exploited by the thieves in the course of the robbery.
In any normal law enforcement situation I do not think that any remotely lucid person would go after a General Motors plant for producing a car which was used by a robber to flee the scene of a crime or the gas station that the robber used to fill up the car before driving to the robbery.
It is beyond me how anyone in the world could accept such wholly nonsensical reasoning (if you could even call it that) as justification for pushing through such dangerous legislation.
This insane logic – if you can even bastardize the concept of logic enough to extend the definition to what these buffoons are engaging in – is also mirrored in much of the mainstream media.
Take the case of Scott Cleland, a contributor for Forbes who, unsurprisingly, has a clear conflict of interest due to the fact that he is President of Precursor LLC, which is what he describes as, “a Fortune 500 research consultancy focused on the future of Internet competition, privacy, security, property rights, innovation and algorithmic markets.”
Whoops! Cleland, if you want to seem even remotely credible, you might not want to advertise the fact that you run a company that would directly benefit from the SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA.
While I am no Google cheerleader, their position on SOPA/PIPA is admirable, and one which Cleland seems hell bent on attacking at all costs, as you can see in his article and other “popular posts” of his on Forbes which all deal with Google.
Cleland claims that the House Manger’s Amendment to SOPA “fixed the major legitimate problems with the original bill,” because of course Cleland is the arbiter of what a legitimate problem is and what an illegitimate problem is when it comes to this legislation.
After all, you’re too imbecilic to actually do your own research and come to your own conclusions, you must have Cleland spoon feed the truth to you, right?
Despite Cleland’s unqualified assertions, which apparently we’re supposed to swallow without question due to his alleged expertise, the ACLU says that the changes in the amendment “don’t go far enough.”
“It will still be likely that ISPs and even search engines will end up removing perfectly legal content – content that is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution – from the Internet,” the ACLU wrote.
Cleland points to the widespread bipartisan support for SOPA/PIPA along with the support lent by outside organizations as if that bestowed any legitimacy on the legislation whatsoever.
There is also “strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate” for legislation which strips American citizens of their most fundamental rights, turns the United States into a battlefield, and allows for anyone and everyone to be held indefinitely in what is commonly known as a FEMA camp or any other facility, foreign or domestic, without charge or trial on suspicion of being a terrorist or being linked to terrorism.
Let’s not forget that they supported the section which allows Americans to be shipped off to any foreign country and handed over to any foreign entity for any number of horrors to be committed without so much as a shred of evidence.
Our government is no longer legitimate and pointing to widespread support of legislation in Washington is not something that can be leveraged to promote a bill as a positive measure, at least not to any thinking person that has read the Constitution and realizes the gravity of the situations with which we are currently dealing.
Cleland attempts to delegitimize and marginalize the major corporations and individuals opposing SOPA/PIPA, like Facebook, Google, Yahoo, eBay, Twitter, Craigslist, Flickr, PayPal, Reddit, AOL, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Tumblr and others, by claiming that they “are becoming increasingly isolated politically.”
This list includes many of the founders themselves, people who obviously value intellectual property as without this concept their businesses would have been stolen out from under them immediately.
Cleland then points to some carefully cherry-picked aspects of the Manager’s Amendment which are, in fact, far from the iron-clad restrictions he makes them out to be.
He attempts to shut down those who point out that companies would be forced to police user content by pointing to the clause in the Manager’s Amendment which reads in part, “no duty to monitor … activity on the network or the service…” although he fails to point out that they could still be held liable regardless.
While there might be “no duty” there is the inferred duty as your website will still be held responsible for content posted by users.
On page 20 of the PDF, we clearly read, “To ensure compliance with orders issued under this section, the Attorney General may bring an action for injunctive relief – (i) against any entity served under paragraph (1) that knowingly and willfully fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection to compel such entity to comply with such requirements,” so if you do not police your users and comply with any and all demands made by the federal government, you can have “an action for injunctive relief” brought against you.
He then attempts to counter those who point out that SOPA/PIPA allow a run-around of due process by claiming “most of the bill’s framework is about requiring the traditional DOJ prosecutor approach of needing to seek a Federal Court injunction from a judge to expressly protect due process.”
Once again, Cleland is either betraying his abject ignorance or proving himself to be a bold faced liar who is self-servingly deceiving the gullible and lazy.
Ken Paulson, the President of the American Society of News Editors, or ASNE, made this very clear in a letter written today to the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith and the Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr.
“Navigating the balance between copyright and free speech demands precision, and in seeking to protect the interest of copyright holders, the First Amendment requires Congress to adopt the least restrictive intrusion on speech available,” Paulson wrote.
“SOPA fails this test.” He continues, “It allows individual copyright owners to effect the most onerous restriction on speech – the prior restraint – with little evidence and virtually no due process, utilizing vague and overbroad definitions in the process. While it is directed at ‘rogue’ websites engaged in widespread privacy, the law carries the real potential to go well beyond that narrow target.”
I think we all know that when a door is left open in legislation like this, it is exploited to the greatest extent possible.
“Without endorsing them, we not that more narrowly tailored alternatives have already been proposed,” Paulson writes, hinting at the OPEN Act which Ars Technica called “a useful starting point for a sensible conversation that could actually lead to acceptable compromises.”
Continuing on the subject of SOPA/PIPA alternatives, Paulson wrote, “Their existence calls into question the constitutionality of SOPA and suggests that this Committee must reject H.R. 3261 and continue to examine other, less restrictive alternatives that strike the right balance between preventing privacy and protecting free expression.”
“Again, we support your ultimate goal of eradicating online content piracy. We simply feel that this particular formulation is not precise enough to protect legitimate free speech rights,” Paulson wrote.
I wholeheartedly agree, and this false sense of, “Either you’re with us or you’re with the pirates,” mentality that Cleland and others are fallaciously promulgating must be shown to be what it is: pure fiction.
You don’t have to give the federal government, and their corporate cronies, free reign to control the flow of information on the internet in order to control privacy, but this is exactly what they are trying to say.
The most hilariously imbecilic aspect of Cleland’s attempt to demonize opposition to SOPA/PIPA is when he says, “it [the SOPA/PIPA opposition] accuses those same committees [House Judiciary Committee and others at the federal level], whose oath is to protect the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the motive of encouraging [sic] the U.S. to “censor the web” like China and Iran do.”
Really, Cleland? Yet again, he proves himself to either be living under a rock, a liar or very possibly delusional.
Every single Senator (93% in total) who voted for S.1867 betrayed the oath of office and directly attacked the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The same can be said for every single member of the House of Representatives (74% in total) who voted in favor of H.R.1540.
To put it simply, Cleland is shilling for the fascist establishment that is currently turning the United States into a society so restrictive that North Korea would be green with envy.
If you care about freedom and the future of the United States you must take a stand now, before SOPA leaves committee and thus would be able to be passed at any moment.
Even if you have already inundated your Representatives with calls and emails already, do not stop. Call your friends and family and tell them to join the groundswell of American people and corporations who are fighting back against this draconian legislation.
Whatever you do, do not give up; continue to make it clear that you will not stand for this, or any other of the many attacks on the Constitution we are now witnessing like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) fiscal year 2012.
Flood your so-called Representatives with calls, emails, letters, and if possible show up in person and make your voice heard.
Unless the majority of the United States starts taking an active role in fighting back against the tyrannical fascistic government that is stripping away everything which America used to stand for, we can only expect an even darker future to unfold.