Yesterday, Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) addressed criticism of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the PROTECT IP Act in a lengthy and well documented study. Many opponents of the legislation have claimed that it would “break the Internet.” Castro writes that this criticism is “completely unfounded and without merit.”
The PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House target websites that sell counterfeit goods and profit from trafficking in stolen content like movies and music. The bills have bipartisan support and are backed by both business and labor and a wide range of law enforcement groups. It’s rare for legislation in Congress to have that kind of support.
“Many inaccurate claims have been made about PIPA/SOPA by opponents of the legislation. The most serious of these claims to date is that the proposed countermeasures in PIPA/SOPA, particularly the DNS filtering obligation, would ‘break the Internet’ or otherwise harm users. This claim, which has been used by critics to rally the public, media and lawmakers to their cause, is completely unfounded and without merit.”
Castro also addresses claims about censorship:
“Some critics of PIPA/SOPA argue that the legislation will restrict lawful free speech and is a form of censorship. Ideological critics have called the PIPA/SOPA the ‘first American Internet censorship system.’ The Internet Society argues that DNS filtering ‘has the potential to restrict free and open communications and could be used in ways that limit the rights of individuals or minority groups.’ Of course it could. ISPs or the U.S. government could use DNS filtering to block sites they do not like. But guns can be used by criminals to kill people too and that does not mean that we do not let the police or security guards have guns. It is not the tool of DNS blocking that is at issue, but the legal regime in which the tool is allowed to be used. Some of these opponents of PIPA/SOPA are more interested in protecting access to free illegal content than they are in protecting free speech. Yet aside from these bold claims, critics have done little to show how enforcing IP rights violates any American’s First Amendment rights.
“Critics of PIPA/SOPA are trying to suggest that if a user is prevented from obtaining a pirated copy of the latest Hollywood film, this is an unlawful restriction of their Constitutional rights. Human rights, including the freedom of speech, are a fundamental part of our democracy and deserve the utmost respect. But this legislation makes no attempt to regulate speech on the Internet. An individual’s right to free speech is not a license to infringe on the IP rights of others. The freedom of speech does not give Internet users the right to steal digital content.”
Critics of rogue websites legislation have been wrong about content protection laws before and they’re wrong again now. If rogue websites legislation passes, American jobs will be preserved and the Internet will continue to be free and open. Content protection laws have given us the Internet of today, alive with innovation, free speech and commerce.