Do you want to know what can happen when America has the best government Big Money can buy (and you can't)?
This. And it's about to happen.
Of course, not being communist China, the U.S. government will not throw a monkey wrench into the Internet because it does not like the politics of any particular website. That would be illiberal.
But if some website might be the slightest threat to big contributors making maximum money, well, that's another thing. That's capitalism, and if you say some things are more important than money . . . we know where you live.
WHAT AM I talking about? This, as explained in Forbes by Larry Downes:
When Congress introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act on October 26th, its sponsors hardly expected a tidal wave of opposition from Silicon Valley. After all, SOPA was billed as a corrected version of the Senate’s Protect IP Act, passed out of committee earlier this year.WHAT WE HAVE today is a nation of perpetual conflict where brute force is the only possible resolution when disputes arise -- be it in the ghetto where gangbangers settle beefs with bullets, on American streets and college campuses where police shut down peaceful protests with billy clubs and pepper spray . . . or in Congress where moneyed interests pay lawmakers to weaponize the U.S. Code on their behalf.
SOPA and Protect IP are the latest proposals for combating so-called “rogue” websites–criminal enterprises operating outside the U.S. that traffic in counterfeit goods and unlicensed entertainment. Many pretend to be legitimate outlets for movies, music, prescription drugs, and luxury goods, often selling dangerous or defective products to U.S. consumers.
Unfortunately, SOPA, also known colorfully as the E-PARASITE Act, was no corrective. SOPA is a sweeping new law, effecting a radical change to how governments and private parties could police Internet content and business innovation in the name of protecting copyrights and trademarks.
While SOPA did correct a few technical errors in Protect IP, it also introduced new definitions, new standards of liability for third parties, a deeply flawed system of private enforcement, and a provision that makes a felony of posting YouTube videos with copyrighted music—even playing in the background. The House version was nearly twice as long as its Senate counterpart.
No one but the criminals, of course, would defend the brazen rip-off of copyright and trademark holders. Unfortunately, legislation touted as targeting only the “worst of the worst” has morphed into something far broader. If passed in their current forms, Protect IP and even more so SOPA would effect a dramatic redesign of the Internet, making it a much smaller and decidedly less innovative place for entrepreneurs and consumers. Neither bill should become law.
For example, SOPA would allow the U.S. government to condemn “foreign infringing sites” by forcing Internet service providers to misdirect requests from consumers attempting to access them. Leading Internet engineers rightly note this provision won’t actually stop users from finding infringing content. It will, however, wreak havoc on crucial international efforts to make the global domain name system more secure, as former National Security Agency general counsel Stewart Baker recently pointed out.
But that’s nothing compared to the most unsettling provision of both bills, which creates a new private right of action for rightsholders to force ad networks and payment processors to shut down websites “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property.” While that sounds simple enough, SOPA’s version of this “market based mechanism” is over 30 pages long. Read carefully, it gives copyright and trademark owners sweeping new powers to cut off websites—foreign and domestic—whose business models they dislike.
For example, based on nothing more than a good faith belief that infringement is taking place on even “a portion of” a website and a failure by the operator to confirm “a high probability of the use of the site” to commit infringement, SOPA allows private parties can order payment processors and ad networks to cut all ties to the site simply by sending a letter.
What could go wrong?