In keeping with the goal to educate readers about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, here is a piece by Jeremy Kolassa, originally published on December 21, 2011.
In one of the few instances of “good news,” or at least “not that terrible news,” the Stop Online Piracy Act has been delayed until after the winter recess:
WASHINGTON POST - The House Judiciary Committee confirmed Tuesday that it will delay continuing debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act until after Congress returns from its winter recess.
Committee spokeswoman Kim Smith said in an e-mailed statement that the hearing is expected to be scheduled for “early next year.”
Well, that is certainly good news on one front. It at least means they won’t be shoving it down our throat today.
But they’re going to try again. It always happens.
There was widespread outrage when TARP was first proposed, and under that public onslaught, the House of Representatives bucked its campaign contributors and shot the plan down. There was much rejoicing—until they passed it, with even more pork, four days later.
There was a big development in the fight against Internet censorship yesterday as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced yesterday that the controversial Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) would not come forward for a vote:
U.S. House Judiciary Committee Member Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) opponent has announced that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has promised him that he will not bring the bill to the floor. That mean, for all practical intents and purposes, that SOPA is dead.
In a press release, Issa announced that he was canceling his Wednesday hearing on “the impact of Domain Name Service (DNS) and search engine blocking on the Internet, has been postponed following assurances that anti-piracy legislation will not move to the House floor this Congress without a consensus.”
Issa said, “Majority Leader Cantor has assured me that we will continue to work to address outstanding concerns and work to build consensus prior to any anti-piracy legislation coming before the House for a vote.” Without the Majority Leader’s support, SOPA won’t get to the House’s floor, it will not be voted on, and this makes it essentially dead.
Along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Issa had been on the forefront against SOPA. The two warned last week that time to kill the bill was quickly running out, and that opponents of SOPA, some of whom had become targets of political opponents, needed to keep the pressure on members of Congress.
It looks like Mitt Romney is trying to appeal to the populist know-nothings that Donald Trump and Tax Hike Mike Huckabee were able to attract by suggesting that the United States should cut off trade with China:
On Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared to ratchet up the rhetoric beyond even that one-liner, suggesting that there was a basis for ending U.S. trade relations with China altogether.
“I’m not sure, whether the intellectual property you have is regularly being stolen by competition around the world, but in the case of China, for instance, we’ve sat idly by as they have stolen — year after year — intellectual property: Designs, patents and so forth,” Romney told a crowd member at a Mosiac Technology Business Roundtable in Salem, N.H. “And I don’t see how you can have a trade relationship, on an open basis, with another nation if they’re stealing a large part of what it is you sell.”
Unlike some libertarians, I actually believe in intellectual property laws. In order to have art, literature, film and television that’s actually worth a damn, there has to be some incentive to create. That means there needs to be profit motive, and intellectual property laws help protect that motive since my works can’t be sold by someone else without me getting a cut. However, there’s a point where it gets beyond stupid.
Earlier this week, I came across this story:
Brian McCarthy ran a website, channelsurfing.net, that linked to various sites where you could watch online streams of TV shows and sports networks.
From Demand Progress:
A couple months ago, the government seized his domain name and on Friday they arrested him and charged him with criminal copyright infringement — punishable by five years in prison.
If this is true, then it has crossed into the ridiculous. Brian McCarthy didn’t do anything but direct people to other web pages where television shows were being shown. If anyone was guilty of copyright infringement, it was the people he linked to. Nothing more, nothing less. The onus was on them to ensure they had permission to post those television shows, and they didn’t.
Unfortunately, this is really just an extension of a trend that started long ago. For example, if a trespasser is making meth on your property, your land can be seized by the government even though you knew nothing about it. You can be arrested because a passenger in your car is carrying drugs, despite the fact that you have nothing in your pockets and you may not even know the drugs are there.
The term ‘intellectual property’ seems innocuous. If property just is ‘intellectual,’ how important could it be? The truth is that intellectual property law is easily one of the most destructive forces in our economy. Nearly one-fourth of scientists responding to a survey by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general scientific body in the world, reported that patents were hampering their research. In the European Union, over €60 billion are wasted every year on research and development of products that are already protected by patent law. An experiment using a virtual world to simulate the effects of the US patent system found that the “participants were more likely to innovate when there was no intellectual property system at all, or when they could open-source their innovations and share them with people.”
Virtually every business that holds a dominant position in its field has gotten there not simply through good business practices, but also through the advantages afforded to them by intellectual property law. In 1998, Google filed patent number 6,285,999 on the “PageRank” system, laying the foundation for them to become the dominant force in internet search. Monsanto has used its patents to control 95% of the soy and 80% of the corn markets, respectively. It used this power to increase the price of each by 28% and 25%, respectively, from 2008 to 2009. “Patent pools” led to monopolies that had to be broken up using antitrust laws in the airplane , computer, and motion picture industries.