SOPA/PROTECT-IP/OPEN Linkwrap #2

By Eric Goldman

It’s been a busy time for news related to SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act, not the Stop Online Privacy Act, although that could be an unintended result!), PROTECT-IP/PIPA, and the OPEN Act. In a bit, I’ll recap some links. First, though, some general thoughts about the last month.

As I predicted, SOPA has been incredibly divisive. It has largely boiled down to Hollywood in support vs. the rest of the world against, with an emerging “with me or against me” attitude. What a shame. We get much better results when the tech and entertainment community collaborate rather than play zero-sum games.

Naturally, I think Hollywood has made several strategic miscalculations here. First, the outrageousness of its proposals has mobilized the tech community. It’s been fascinating watching companies and politicians scramble to disavow themselves from SOPA when targeted by the anti-SOPA advocates. That NEVER happens when it comes to a Congressional proposal to regulate technology. Perhaps this mobilization will be a flash in the pan, or perhaps Hollywood has poked a sleeping tiger once too often.

Second, Hollywood’s credibility with its financially-sponsored politicians may be wearing thin. Politicians will happily take its money, but they don’t enjoy looking like fools–and many SOPA supporters have, in fact, looked pretty silly while being left twisting in the wind by their Hollywood patrons. Money will buy a lot of politician patience, but the goodwill reservoir is not bottomless.

Third, even if Hollywood can succeed in passing something like SOPA or even PIPA, I believe it would be counterproductive to its long-term interests. As I’ve mentioned before, we all benefit from having larger common markets (see, e.g., NAFTA or the EEC), and the Internet has emerged as the largest common market of all. A Balkanized Internet will devolve into disparate smaller markets that represent less value for everyone.

A final counterproductive point, although Hollywood may not care. SOPA/PIPA absolutely will drive US dollars–and jobs–overseas. For example, I ditched GoDaddy as my domain name registrar and took my business to a foreign registrar who won’t be subject to SOPA/PIPA. If other folks make the same calculations I did, collectively it will be a boon for foreign service providers and a net loss for US service providers. At best, SOPA/PIPA preserve some jobs at the expense of others; my guess is that our economy will suffer a net reduction in jobs. Just what we need during this protracted economic downturn.

The amazing thing is: despite the complete lack of credible empirical evidence supporting SOPA/PIPA, and despite a groundswell of grassroots opposition to it, and despite companies and politicians dropping their support of SOPA/PIPA when the spotlight is cast on them, Hollywood might still be able to succeed in this rent-seeking endeavor. It’s evidence of just how well Hollywood has embedded itself into Congress’ psyche (and wallets).

Some news items since my last linkwrap:

* OPEN has been introduced in the Senate as S.2029.

* CDT’s list of opponents. As you know, I am on it.

* Mike Masnick broke a huge story about Dajaz1.com, showing how our government repeatedly broke the law in falsely pursuing a so-called rogue website. The conduct of the government is chilling–things like this aren’t supposed to happen in our democracy!–and if heads don’t roll for the coverup, it will be another nail in the coffin of our republic.

* The government also lost the Rojadirecta case. Also, an in-depth look at the Operation in Our Sites bust of Ninja Video, where the government continues to make questionable interpretations of criminal copyright law.

* Constitional Law scholar extraordinare Laurence Tribe and advocate Marvin Ammori both explained how SOPA violates the First Amendment. Marvin followed up with a First Amendment assessment of the manager’s amendment. Corynne McSherry’s thoughts.

* Why aren’t members of Congress listening to the opposition? Maybe it has something to do with the revolving door between government and industry. See this article: SOPA revolvers: Sixteen former Judiciary staffers lobby on online copyright issues.

* Wikimedia’s General Counsel Geoff Brigham explains “How SOPA will hurt the free web and Wikipedia

* One of the many unanswered questions: who is a rogue website and how many are there? CNET News.com suggests that SOPA is all about taking out just one website–The Pirate Bay. Seriously, we’re going to break the Internet because of The Pirate Bay? Talk about collateral consequences for something that could be handled with incredibly narrow legislative fixes—or better yet, with precise transborder enforcement cooperation.

* EFF on the good and bad in the OPEN Act.

* Mike Masnick completely destroys Lamar Smith’s so-called statement of facts in support of SOPA. Reading articles like this remind us that support for SOPA/PROTECT-IP is hardly about “the facts.”

* More “fact” debunking, this time by Julian Sanchez.

* Speaking of “the facts” or the lack thereof, it appears that the House Judiciary Committee is massively overclaiming who supports SOPA. Misleading the American public apparently is just business as usual in DC.

* Meanwhile, companies are realizing that being listed as a SOPA supporter isn’t necessarily good for business. SOPA opponents targeted GoDaddy, who instantly declared their lack of support for SOPA but remains completely untrustworthy and hypocritical.

* Meanwhile, SOPA is turning into an election-year issue, and politicians are beginning to learn the power of Reddit.

* If you want to speak up, check out SOPA Track and find out where your legislators stand. My Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, has been firm in her opposition to SOPA, but the California senators are both PIPA co-sponsors because they too deeply in bed with Hollywood to listen to other constituents. So fair warning to Sen. Boxer and Feinstein–I plan to vote for your opponents, whoever they are, in the next election cycle.

* Great article about how SOPA will become a Trojan horse for all types of online content censorship, not just the suppression of rogue websites.

* Opposition to SOPA is bipartisan: “I suggest the left and right unite and pledge to defeat in primaries every person named as a sponsor on H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act.”

Just a reminder because everyone knows SOPA is so ridiculously extreme: PROTECT-IP is NOT an acceptable “compromise” to SOPA. PROTECT-IP is also extreme. As I indicated previously, if we’re going to have any legislative discussions about rogue websites, we should start with the OPEN Act and iterate from there. In light of the action in the courts (see the links below), any legislative solution should be coupled with increased immunities for Internet intermediaries so that they don’t just coddle the rightsowners irrespective of the legislation.

FWIW, I have called Rep. Eshoo to thank her for her opposition to SOPA, and I’ve contacted Sens. Feinstein and Boxer to let them know that I disagree with their positions on PROTECT-IP. Have you contacted your legislators to tell them how you feel? If you don’t speak up, they won’t know where you stand.

Prior blog coverage of SOPA/PROTECT-IP/OPEN:

* More on Ex Parte Cutoffs of Foreign “Rogue” Domain Names

* Does the House Judiciary Committee Debating SOPA Know What’s Going On In the Courts?–Philip Morris v. Jiang

* If You Dislike SOPA, You’ll Dislike This Case Too–True Religion v. Xiaokang Lei

* The OPEN Act: Significantly Flawed But More Salvageable Than SOPA/PROTECT-IP

* I Don’t Heart SOPA or PROTECT-IP: A Linkwrap

* Ad Network Avoids Contributory Copyright Infringement for Serving Ads to a Rogue Website–Elsevier v. Chitika

* Court OKs Private Seizure of Domain Names Which Allegedly Sold Counterfeit Goods–Chanel, Inc. v. Does

* Why I Oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/E-PARASITES Act

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