Thursday, January 19, 2012


People who visited Google, Wikipedia or a number of other sites yesterday were greeted with severe changes to their usual Web browsing experience. These pages advertised their opposition to new proposed Internet piracy bills PIPA (Protect IP Act) and (Stop Online Piracy Act) and encouraged their users to learn more about these proposed bills.

For those that did not take this advice and opportunity, the primary argument, in nutshell, is that these bills will defeat the original purpose of the Internet. Their goal is to attempt to stop the pirating of images, movies and other original works created by other people. While this is a laudable goal, which even the protesting sites respect, they feel these bills are overbroad and compare them to “taking a sledgehammer to something when you need a scalpel.”

An interesting example of this alleged overreach is provided here. To sum it up, an ISP can shut down a site based on a complaint that the site has “pirated” materials. According to the example, it does not matter how rough or dissimilar the work is, if it in any way simulates the work created by another, the site may be banned.

And, the alleged offending site has no recourse. United States Internet service providers are granted immunity for what they decide to pull from their service. Extending the example given above, a person’s personal family Web site could be pulled based on the fact that they have videos of their children singing copyrighted songs, no matter how bad their singing may be. And once pulled, the person cannot then seek recourse.

Like many actions, the intentions behind these bills are justifiable. But the wrong tools are being used. This “sledgehammer” has the potential to violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and devalue the Internet entirely. There are ways to reach these goals without blowing up the whole infrastructure of the Internet.; SOPA and PIPA are not the right tools to do this.

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