In the interest of the free Internet, I will do something that could potentially be illegal under SOPA/PIPA: I will quote two extended discussions of the legislation from other blogs.
Yesterday on the global blog Crooked Timber (which I'm delighted to learn about), blogger Maria Farrell posted this:
If this seems extreme, read this from Chris Heald at Mashable yesterday:
Why SOPA is Dangerous
Heald analyzes in detail exactly what's so threatening about this legislation, with links to the actual bill, so you can read it for yourself.
But this is my blog, so here's why I think this is wrong, based on reading these two sources (and other sources, but these were the best):
It is so broadly written that all anyone would have to do to shut down a web site, any web site, would be to file a complaint with the attorney general that the site was "facilitating the commission of copyright infringement."
Section 102(a)(2) permits the attorney general to take action against foreign sites (i.e., sites that do not fall under U.S. jurisdiction) if “the owner or operator of such Internet site is facilitating the commission of [copyright infringement].”And as you notice, it doesn't even have to be a U.S. site. This is the United States trying to impose its own legal structure on the entire world. Must be okay because we're just trying to get criminals, right?
There is no definition of "facilitating" in the bill. Here's the actual definition in SOPA (for the record this is sec. 102):
- (a) Definition- For purposes of this section, a foreign Internet site or portion thereof is a `foreign infringing site' if--
- (1) the Internet site or portion thereof is a U.S.-directed site and is used by users in the United States;
- (2) the owner or operator of such Internet site is
committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations
punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter
90, of title 18, United States Code; and
- (3) the Internet site would, by reason of acts
described in paragraph (1), be subject to seizure in the United States
in an action brought by the Attorney General if such site were a
domestic Internet site.
That's it. That's the entire definition. That means that a site is a "foreign infringing site" if the attorney general says it is. Don't let the code sections they list fool you. There is no standard of proof in this act. There is no way for a site to prove that it isn't "infringing." You are infringing if someone says you are.
This disturbs me deeply. This is another step toward the end of the rule of law in this country, following on the legalizing of indefinite detention of U.S. citizens in the N.D.A.A. recently. Even more disturbing, the attorney general is only required to make a cursory attempt to locate the owners of the site before starting proceedings. (Read the Mashable article, and the bill, if you don't believe me.) So your totally innocent site could be blocked and you might not find out until you tried to go there yourself.
And they're doing this based on bogus numbers. The GAO concluded about a year ago that commonly quoted "government statistics" on internet piracy can't be validated and appear to have been mostly made up: see this article by Nate Anderson in ArsTechnica on a GAO review of commonly published piracy estimates: