Grassroots Internet freedom movement slams, lawmakers for their support of SOPA

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: GoDaddy, SOPA, internet freedom

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(NaturalNews) The Internet is the "final frontier" when it comes to pure freedom of speech and expression, which is why authoritarian regimes in places like Iran and China either severely limit or ban access to much of it.

Having said that, you wouldn't think that here in the cradle of democracy and freedom, American lawmakers would be attempting to pass legislation that, for all intents and purposes, kills Internet freedom of expression.

Enter the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, which is a piece of legislation currently gaining favor in the House of Representatives that would, according to the bill's language, hold Internet Web hosting companies and their users liable for everything they post.

According to lawmakers supporting the bill, its chief aim is to target foreign Web sites "primarily dedicated to illegal activity" or foreign sites that "market themselves as such."

"There is a vast virtual market online run by criminals who steal products and profits that rightly belong to American innovators. These foreign rogue websites not only steal movies and music, they offer counterfeit medicine, automobile parts and even baby food, which harm American industries and put American lives at risk," says Rep. Lamar Alexander, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. "Because the U.S. produces the most intellectual property, our nation has the most to lose if we fail to address the problem of rogue sites."

Sounds fair enough, right? Only, the devil is in the details and, quite frankly, can you remember the last time a piece of legislation came out of Washington, D.C., without a softball-sized spool of string attached to it? Here's a much more accurate assessment of what the law will really do, from someone who would be affected by its provisions:

SOPA explicitly states that companies will be liable for everything their users post. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Wikipedia, or any sites that allow user generated content CANNOT exist under these laws. Immediately after this bill is passed, you will see the media mafia (MPIAA, RIAA, etc) replacing websites like Wikipedia with commercialized encyclopedia software. Mainstream media outlets will not cover this bill because they are the ones lobbying for it.

CBS News even speculated on the law's implications: "YouTube videos of your kids dancing to Katy Perry songs could land you in jail, or at the very least, cost you a hefty fine. Sounds like a Big Brother-inspired vision of the future? It's actually only a few steps away from a reality. If a House committee votes to support the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), you could be committing a felony."

Lawmakers who support the measure are quick to pooh-pooh such assessments, but Internet sites dedicated to freedom of expression aren't taking any chances - and they're voting with their wallets. So much so, in fact, that many have pulled their domains away from, one of the Web's bigger hosting services, because the company initially supported the legislation before announcing it would no longer do so.

The damage caused by that initial support, however, may be irreversible. Scores of companies have already moved thousands of Web sites, including Reddit and Wikipedia. And there's little evidence to suggest will get them back.

It's a Bizzaro World, indeed, when a premier Web hosting service would ever think to support even a semblance of legislation that sought to criminalize Web hosting firms for something a user/customer posted.

Unless that company was, say, exempt from the legislation?


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