10 Questions & Answers | Why SOPA is Anti-Constitutional

The Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA)

or HR 3261 could quite possibly the beginning of the end of free speech and the internet in America. The text can be found here.

I didn’t pay much attention to this bill because I thought it was a joke at first. But in the event you’ve missed what SOPA is all about, the new house bill 3261 is being touted by proponents as an amendment that is meant to

“give the government extra ordinary power to request internet service providers to restrict sites that infringe on copyright material, and prosecute people that violate the copyright of intellectual property”

Put another way, it gives the US government absolute power to censor the internet.

I’m not joking.

If passed any complaint of copyright infringement made about a website is enough for the government to intervene and block entire sites without notice.

whats so bad about that?

everything.

Bill HR 3261 introduced by Lamar Smith R. from Texas (as if anyone was surprised) if passed will effectively destroy the right to free speech, cripple the digital economy, and put the United States’s access to information on par with the most oppressed nations on the planet. It will give the attorney general the ability to block websites that are infringing on copyright material and bring domestic sites found in violation to court punishable under a bunch of sections of the US Code.

well that doesn’t sound so bad.

it gets better.

Don’t get this confused with censoring profanity or pornography (although it will be well within the governments power to do so), this bill enables the government to block access to entire websites if any part of the website is found in violation of either infringing on copyrights or facilitating the infringement on copyrights or complained about infringing on copyrights. But it doesn’t just stop at copyrights.

what counts as a copyright.

anything.

Work of sufficient originality that can be produced in a tangible medium is eligible for a copyright. For example you can’t copyright an idea, but if you type that idea up, or scribble it on a napkin with a piece of charcoal, it counts as intellectual property.

Copyrights also apply to poems, medicine, plays, paintings, dances, musicals, photographs, audio recordings, sculptures, software, radio and television broadcasts, industrial designs, maps, recipes, graphic design, logos, charts, journal articles,  blogs, children’s monster drawings, tweets, status updates, short stories, song lyrics, emails, and anything else written/created/or otherwise produced anywhere by anyone at anytime.

what counts as infringement or facilitating infringement?

anything.

If any part of any website has any of the above that wasn’t created by the author of the site, or has the express permission from the creator of any of the above to be published on a website, that entire site can be shut down. For example, if you want to show your friends vacation photos online and one picture is of a famous painting, it can be deemed copyright infringement for unlicensed use of the painting’s image. Not only can your entire site be shutdown, you’d be subject to violations punishable by law.

OR

If any part of any website promotes the infringement of any of the above, say a search engine that happens to lead you to the location of copyright material. All of them for example. Or a digital payment site that support the advertising on sites that have copyright material. All of them for example.

OR

If you cover a song you liked and post a video on some sort of video sharing site for example, that entire site can be shut down and you can be sued for that copyright infringement. Yeah that’s right.

You can shut down a site if you posts copyright material to another site, you and the owner of the site may be subject to violations punishable by law. 

Now, companies and governments might not go after the people posting pictures of their vacations or singing their favorite songs. These people are mostly looking to increase revenue by preventing the free flow of information from other countries and internally withing our own country. But where do you draw the line? And more importantly, why not? How do you determine which copyrights are okay to infringe upon and which are not. If all it takes is a complaint of infringement, and whole sites can be shut down without even notifying the owner of the site, then nothing is safe.

OH yeah, almost missed that part. If any part of a website is found in violation of copyright infringement, there is no notification necessary prior to a complete removal of the website.

Now you many be asking yourself…

isn’t there supposed to be laws against these kind of laws?

yeah, loads of them.

The most prominent of which would be that little thing call the first amendment of the constitution that states

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Theres also things like the fair use act, the copyright act of 1976, and the many protected classes under the bill of rights.

To combat this anti-constitutional issue, Lamar Smith wrote in the very first few pages of the bill that

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech or the press protected under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.

And, to be fair, since the first concerns that this new act will be crippling the internet and violating civil liberties, people have been trying to curtail the wording of the act to limit the slippery slope of violations into the right to free speech.

But the challenge in changing the wording of the act to fit within the current constraints of the constitution, is not that it’s simply difficult, it’s that it’s impossible.

There is and can be no distinction between telling someone what is not okay to see on the internet and the violation of the first amendment.

why would anyone ever think this is a good idea?

Because Lamar Smith is the biggest douche on the planet, and everything is bigger in Texas.

In case you haven’t heard of Lamar, he’s known for his stances on such popular topics as the support of the Abortion Pain bill that would

ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child

Also the Child Interstate Abortion Notifaction Act which

prohibits taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions.

His run at the digital copyright game in 2006 with DMCA which

expand the DMCA’s restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.

And his stance on the end of the marijuana prohibition act of 2011

Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse and does not have an accepted medical use in the U.S., The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease.

I think this bill should be repealed from consideration if for no other reason than the fact that Lamar Smith shouldn’t count as a person.

Seriously, what’s this guy’s deal? Politicians have felt the pressure from industries looking for a way to combat the “injustices on the internet” for a while, but aside from Lamar, not many are going to even broach the idea of challenging the right to free speech. But because he was already against abortion, gay marriage, drugs, and pro cracking down on digital media, and forcing underage irresponsible children to bring more children into the world, he probably figured, “Hey why not challenge the first amendment”

All the while Smith make such smug self-satisfying comments about the bill such as

I am pleased that the unfounded claims of critics of the Stop Online Piracy Act have overwhelmingly been rejected by a majority of House Judiciary Committee members.

And

Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet.  Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts.

Great idea Smith, call out the people that have nothing but time on their hands to go through every page of this diatribe and find every loophole in it. (I’ll get back to this in a second, more quotes first, here’s one of my favorites).

 “There is a vast virtual market online run by criminals who steal products and profits that rightly belong to American innovators. These foreign rogue websites not only steal movies and music, they offer counterfeit medicine, automobile parts and even baby food, which harm American industries and put American lives at risk.

JESUS NO!

Not baby food and automobile parts. You know, now that I think about it, never once in my life have I had my car fixed and thought to myself, “I should really be paying more for these parts!” Why do you thinks people go online to find cheaper parts? In a time of economic disparity, it’s more important than ever to find deals where you can.

In fact, why is it when the someone pays full price for a product off a shelf in a store they feel like they’re getting screwed, because most people know they can buy things online for much cheaper perhaps.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I understand that brick and mortar stores can’t compete with online prices when you factor in rent, employees, insurance, etc. But there’s a stark difference between charging a little more and paying for the convenience, and charging an insane amount more just because. The free market should determine the price of a good. Not the government.

Here’s a good one

According to estimates, IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs

Nailed it Smith! Good job, you found the cause for the loss of american jobs. People downloading episodes of the Simpsons off the pirate bay because they missed it during the week from working two jobs. Couldn’t be any other reasons.

[one_third]Supporters of this bill include companies like

  • Warner Music Nashville
  • UMG Group Nashville
  • Sony Music Nashville
  • Screen Actors Guild
  • National Trooper Coalition
  • National Sherrif Association
  • Mercury Nashville
  • International Brotherhood of teamsters (real thing)
  • Fraternal order of Police
  • Country Music Association
  • Country Music Television
  • Alliance for tax reform
  • Capitol Records Nashville
  • Christian Music Trade Association
  • and Beach Body LLC

[/one_third]

A few familiar companies that oppose this bill include:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo
  • American Civil liberties union
  • Mozilla
  • eBay
  • Linkedin
  • Computer Planet
  • TechFreedom
  • Brookings
  • YouTube
  • AOL
  • Wikimedia
  • Electronic frontier foundation
  • Human rights watch
  • tumblr

Anyone else see a pattern here?

I’m not saying that one sides opinions are more or less valid than the others, but when it comes to matters of the future of the internet, I gotta go with the home team on this one.

but downloading illegal content or buying counterfeit goods/medications hurts the poor defenseless software, fashion, medical, and entertainment industries.

yeah, we know.

Maybe instead of business as usual or trying to fight back, the industry should try to embrace the change like netflix, spotify, iTunes, hulu or any of the other services. The technology wasn’t new or different, it was just welcomed. Then those companies went on to integrate the software into gaming consoles and peripheral devices to allow more users to use their services.

What was so bad about that model?

Some people just want to be able to watch movies or TV when they want to watch them, some people may not want to pay for the fluff songs used to finish out a record, some just plain can’t afford the cost of digital media, but that doesn’t stop them from spreading the word about it. Artist should be stoked that their work makes so many people happy. And if its good people will still pay to go see shows and buy shirts and such.

And for software people, how about not charging $1699 for Adobe CS5 or maybe make a Final Cut Pro that actually works before you release it. How hard was it to transition from Windows Vista to Windows 7, and why the hell is Lion 10.7 backwards scrolling?

Maybe medication shouldn’t cost $22/pill or handbags shouldn’t be sold for $1200 a purse. Maybe the United States is looking in the wrong direction to enforce laws.

The entertainment industry had two options when faced with this problem, and they picked the wrong one. 

Give people what they want and they’ll respond. Don’t give people what they want and they’ll respond too.

but how would companies make money if they didn’t charge for things?

I’m not saying don’t charge for things. I’m saying re-evaluate the way people charge for things, the mediums that they’re disseminated from, and the values that companies that create products are founded upon. At the end of the day if people are crossing the border into canada to afford medication to live, maybe it’s time to take another whack at that pricing structure.

Of course if you’re a christian scientist like Lamar Smith, that wouldn’t really affect you.

well if this bill passes then money will go back to the hands of the people that created the work, instead of foreign websites that allow free downloads and sell adspace on their sites right?

First off, people will always ALWAYS find a way to download copyright material. Always. Second, when you give the government the ability to deny access to domains, you open a pandora sized box shared  by the most oppressed countries in the world. Copyright material is where it starts. But the definition is so loosely based that entire sectors of the digital community can be shut down at the flip of a switch. Any attempt to pander to the opposition will create loopholes that anyone will be able to get through.

PLUS, there’s no way for anISP to block one part of a domain and not another. But even if there was, do you really want the government deciding what constitutes infringement?

Opponents complain that under the new bill, people like Justin Beiber would be in jail for singing copyright songs on the internet before he got his start. Personally, I’d support a bill that puts Justin Beiber in Jail, but that’s only a small part of what the bill is actually about.

the new bill is going to “promote prosperity creativity entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of US property, and for other purposes”

Let’s just call it what it is.

American businesses are losing sales due to the ability to find cheaper means to obtaining goods on the internet. That’s what the free market is about. That’s one of the main tenets that this country was founded on. The free market decides whats what. This bill monopolizes the free market within the United States.

but I don’t even really download content, watch youtube, buy counterfeit handbags, need medication, read wiki-leaks, use recipes online, lookup reviews, or use Facebook at all so this doesn’t really affect me.

Wrong!

When you give the US government the ability to block sites at will, they can control the media and tell us what is okay and what’s not okay to see online.

Ever hear of the Massacre at Tienanmen Square in China? Because the Chinese haven’t. And when you don’t even know about the things you don’t know about, you can’t fight against them.

but I don’t live in the United States so this doesn’t really affect me

When money is involved it affects everyone.

If SOPA passes, and returns however many millions back to the entertainment, software, medical, and fashion industries, how long do you think it will be before other countries start following suit?

This has to stop now. People have already been arrested under the DMCA, now it’s gone too far.

but I’m only one person, if the government wants to pass it, I can’t do anything about it?

I’m one person too, but you found this article.

You can tell everyone you know about SOPA, copy and paste this message on your own sites. Sign the petition at Whitehouse.gov This is one of the biggest blows to the right to free speech in our generation. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Lamar Smith is trying to sneak it by the house right before the holidays? Not so many people are talking about it because most are preoccupied with other stuff.

People need to know about this, shout out against it, and give people that think SOPA is a good idea a smack in the mouth. Its easy to become complacent with the level of free speech we enjoy in the United State because we’ve never had to do anything to defend it. Freedom is only assumed until it’s taken a way. The true test of its strength is lengths that people will go to get it back once lost. Liberty lies in the hearts of the people. When it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it.

Keep the internet free! Down with SOPA!

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