Protecting intellectual property is important, but the Stop Online Piracy Act would harm innocents and undermine due process
Congress is weighing a bill that would fundamentally change how the Internet works. It would affect even the most casual web user, who does no more than browse Facebook or watch YouTube videos or store photos on Flickr. Despite its importance, few people understand the legislation: It sounds complicated to outsiders.
But don't tune out!
A quick primer is enough to grasp the high stakes, and there are two huge payoffs: 1) You can help save the Internet. 2) You can see beyond this specific bill's flaws to the general error in thinking its supporters embrace. That's important, for the same error is behind many of the most destructive laws in the United States.
Once you recognize it, you'll see it everywhere.
Who supports the Stop Online Piracy Act?
Mostly copyright holders and their associations. Viacom. Time Warner. Disney. The Recording Industry Association of America. The Motion Picture Association of America. The Internet makes it easier to consume intellectual property bankrolled by these entities without paying for it. Perhaps you've illegally downloaded a song, or posted a TV show to YouTube, or downloaded a whole pirated movie from a foreign website. Having invested in producing lots of albums and feature-length films, it's easy to understand why a Fox or Universal or BMI would want to prevent people from consuming them without paying. They argue doing so is every bit as legitimate as a department store working to prevent shoplifting or a neighborhood bank guarding the cash in its drawers.