I’ve read several opinions on SOPA/PIPA for weeks. I may be off in my read of it, but below is my letter to Senator Schumer urging his withdrawal of support of this bill. I’m sharing it here. Read the bill. Section 103 is SCARY. I’m not kidding.
Dear Senator Schumer:
It has come to my attention that you support SOPA/PIPA that is currently under consideration in Congress. Your support of this bill is distressing and as a long time supporter of your service, and I’m now faced with a difficult decision if you choose to continue your support of this bill.
This bill is poorly written. It is unclear where piracy/copyright protection for the entertainment industry and preservation of free speech begins and ends.
The definition alone of a ‘internet site dedicated to the theft of US Property’ is so wildly unwieldy that EVERY INTERNET SITE CREATED IN THE US would be subject to scrutiny of the Attorney General depending on the claim by any entity that said site has committed ‘theft’ of content, which in this case equals ‘loss revenue’ for said entity. Should a site post a review or comment about a product that is unflattering to said product, the entity has the right to request the AG order Google to remove references index references to the site in a simple search, and the host provider would be mandated to block access to the site to any viewers who seek the domain. The offending entity has little to no resources to object this claim and the US government can assume ownership of the domain? This is my close read of Section 103 of the bill as it is currently written.
While many may believe that this is tied only to piracy (blocking sites that allow for streaming of motion pictures or major record label music), I don’t see how this bill protects the very foundation of our democracy, the ability for the press to communicate with readers, trusted and respected bloggers to communicate with their readers. I read US papers and international papers online. The bill would allow the US government to unilaterally block any foreign website. Should the BBC report on American events, the AG has the discretion to block my access to it? Really? It also seems to imply that a simple email communication between an individual and me could get flagged as copyright infringement and could mean that my email becomes property of US government and all my communication would be blocked. Am I mistaken in this interpretation?
I have a blog and occasionally write for other sites. If I’m reading Section 103 correctly, it also implies that any reference I may make could be in violation of copyright protection. I’m also a volunteer editor of an online literary journal. The content we publish is original work from writers and visual artists. We understand the sensitivity of this issue of piracy. However, should our original content reflect views that are deemed unsavory to an entity, corporation or the federal/state/local governments could simply block access to that content. We are a small entity; we rely solely on our connection to an online community of readers. There are many sites that are similar to ours in creating content. The bill could shut us down and hundreds down like us with the broad and undefined powers given to the attorney general under the guise to simply ‘protect US Property’.
The definitions are so nebulous, it allows for gross abuses in enforcement that leave me to conclude that in its implementation it would reach further than just shutting down sites of pirated entertainment media. It would be censorship of information and silencing between communities sharing communication, information for social and political action. It leads me to conclude that this is a direct assault on our first amendment rights.
Any reasonable person who reads this bill as it is currently written understands that this bill provides a trapdoor to ending free speech. I urge you to withdraw support from SOPA/PIPA. I’m sure that you and many members of congress could spend a little more time to precisely define terms to protect content creators and uphold copyright laws without making every citizen of the United States a criminal. You vote for this bill, you will lose my vote in the next election cycle.