The looming threat of Internet censorship in the name of copyright is being opposed by an increasing number of groups, politicians, and companies. Ron Paul and others, for example, oppose it, although supporting the goal of stopping rogue websites and copyright “piracy.”1
As for companies, Dyn, for example, an Internet infrastructure/DNS/email delivery comany, has a strong statement opposing the horrible Stop Online Piracy Act/E-PARASITE (which emerged after the defeat of PROTECT-IP, aka “son of COICA” as it rose from the ashes of the defeated COICA) pending legislation that Big Media are trying to usher through Congress.2 Unfortunately, they also, like the politicians who are coming out against SOPA, water down their opposition by paying obeisance to the legitimacy of the statist protectionism known as copyright, by including the comment: “While online piracy is obviously bad …” However, the rest of Dyn’s statement is very good. A few excerpts are included below.
And as noted above, other groups and companies are coming out against SOPA, including the European Parliament and “more than 60 civil and human rights organizations”. Even the the Business Software Alliance, which represents IT companies including Microsoft, SAP, IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, and which originally supported SOPA, has withdrawn its support for SOPA in its current form.3
Dyn urges people to sign this petition to oppose SOPA. It is a fairly strong opposition to the proposed legislation, even though it also implies there can be “reasonable copyright law.” There cannot be. Genuine rights cannot conflict; when statist positive law sets up rights that “conflict,” or laws that are “in tension” (such as the “tension” between antitrust and IP law), that’s a red flag that at least one of these laws is illegitimate. When people try to reconcile copyright with free speech–to find the right “balance”4 –the result is inconsistency, and lack of a principled approach. Thus, you see people saying, sure, we need to stop piracy–but these laws go “too far”; we need to have a “reasonable” copyright regime, not one that results in “too much” censorship. Of course this mirrors the content of the Constitution itself, which enshrines both copyright (which results in censorship) and free speech. Since most people are legal positivist and hold the fallacious view that the state is legitimate, they accept the Constitution as legitimate and try to square unsquarable things. The result is cognitive dissonance. (One could argue, by the way, that the First Amendment, ratified in 1791, overrules the Copyright clause, ratified along with the Constitution in 1789, since they are incompatible and later-ratified (legislation and) constitutional provisions implicitly overrule earlier (legislation and) constitutional provisions, just as the Twenty-first Amendment (1933) repealed the alcohol prohibition of the Eighteenth Amendment (1919).5
Here are some excerpts from Dyn’s statement:
If the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) introduced this week gets enacted into law, things could change negatively for Americans which is why Dyn opposes the bill.
What Is SOPA?
The goal of the bill is to “expand the ability of federal law enforcement to shut down foreign Web sites and services that use counterfeited or pirated content created by U.S. firms.” It was introduced by Texas Republican Lamar Smith earlier this week as a companion to the Protect IP bill introduced that would punish those web entities that host unauthorized, copyrighted content like movies, software, songs and anything else that can be illegally downloaded.
While online piracy is obviously bad, this is the wrong way to go about fighting it. We understand why the groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are supporting the bill as piracy of content costs the original producers/distributors tens of billions of dollars. They’re desperate for a solution to recoup that lost revenue. This isn’t it.
Why We’re Opposed To It
Web companies like Google, Yahoo and some of our fellow DNS providers like OpenDNS have strongly come out in opposition to SOPA and for good reason. Essentially, this bill would give the government more control into shutting down websites they don’t agree with in general. Anti-American sentiment promoted on Twitter, Tumblr or another one of our clients that promotes free discourse? Both the sites themselves and Dyn as their DNS provider could be penalized for simply providing a conduit in which someone can access or promote views the government doesn’t agree with — regardless of whether the source is based in the U.S. or not.
The Great Firewall of America? Yep, kinda feels like that. SOPA is a shot across the bow of free speech and as one of the largest Internet IaaS companies in the world, we cannot endorse it in any way, shape or form.
What Can You Do?
If you’re based in the U.S. and against this act, we urge that you e-sign this petition to ‘Stop The E-Parasite Act’. The initial goal was to get 25,000 signatures by the end of November and as I write this, there are more than 40,000. Clearly, this is a movement that is gaining momentum.
For our international friends, there is a petition here that has got a tremendous following.
You can also contact your local government officials and tell them you oppose SOPA. The more people that are heard, the more the government will understand that this level of control over today’s Internet is unneeded and unwanted. We don’t often rally the troops for causes such as this, so hopefully this post gets across the impact of how strongly we oppose SOPA.
- SOPA Becoming An Election Issue: Challengers Highlighting Reps Who Want To Censor The Internet; Ron Paul Comes Out Against SOPA; Joins Other Elected Officials Saying No To The Great Firewall Of America. [↩]
- See Die, SOPA, Die. [↩]
- Business Software Alliance Withdraws Support for Stop Online Piracy Act; SOPA Needs Work to Address Innovation Considerations. [↩]
- See SOPA Needs Work to Address Innovation Considerations, speaking of the need to “balance key innovation, privacy and security considerations with the need to thwart the threat rogue websites pose”. And A Free Speech Theory of Copyright, by Steven J. Horowitz, which recognizes that there is a “constitutional balance … between the Copyright Clause and the First Amendment”–in other words (my words), the restrictions of copyright are a type of censorship that are incompatible with free speech. As Horowitz asks, “How can a body of law that functions to empower private actors to restrict expression be accommodated within a constitutional order so committed to the liberty of the mind?” [↩]
- For more on this argument, see my post Copyright Censorship versus Free Speech and Human Rights; Excessive Fines and the Eighth Amendment; also Judge Rules EA has “1st Amendment Right” to Depict College Football Players; Cato/Reason/CEO brief opposing medical diagnostic process patents as violating freedom of speech. [↩]