The Netizens That Roared

Yesterday, we saw quite an uproar over SOPA and PIPA, and watched as a number of supporters of the bills in Congress either switched sides or walked back from the bills.

Apparently, Google’s petition against the bills got 4-plus million signatures, and there were several other petitions online that also picked up large numbers. These, in combination with many sites going dark, have caused the wheels to come off the two bills, and it’s one of Hollywood’s few losses ever in Washington.

Opposition to the bills appears to cross liberal and conservative lines. I don’t think people are seriously opposed to stopping piracy at all, but the blunt force approach of this bill was just too much. It has been noted that a person could actually be prosecuted and convicted, and get one more year of jail time for downloading a Michael Jackson song than the doctor that killed him has been sentenced to! My objection is that the enforcement in the bills is similar to a private attorney general action in that a content provider could get a court order and close down a site, with no ability to have a day in court, present evidence, or appeal. The site is just out of business, even due to a link posted by a third party on the site. (This is also why the American Bar Association opposed the bills.)

It’s not hard to predict that these bills in another form will reappear and start winging their way through Congress again. Let’s hope this time that Hollywood will agree to meet with the tech and web folks, and craft something that will work on piracy, but not cause the wholesale destruction of free speech rights on the web.

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