Tag Archive: Freedom


Piracy vs. an open Internet

In seeking to protect copyright holders from online piracy, especially from sites overseas, bills in both the House and Senate go to risky extremes.

To avoid the reach of U.S. copyright laws, numerous online pirates have set up shop in countries less willing or able to enforce intellectual property rights. Policymakers agree that these “rogue” sites pose a real problem for U.S. artists and rights holders who aren’t getting paid for the rampant distribution of their music, movies and other creative works. The question is how to help them. Lawmakers keep offering proposals, but they don’t seem to be getting any closer to the right answer.

The latest, HR 3261, comes from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and a dozen co-sponsors. Dubbed the Stop Online Piracy Act, it’s designed to isolate foreign websites that commit or “facilitate” willful copyright infringements by cutting off their funding and shrinking their U.S. audience. In that sense, it’s similar to its counterpart in the Senate, S 968, the PROTECT IP Act, which the Judiciary Committee has approved.

Both bills go to risky extremes, however, in their efforts to stop these sites from attracting an audience. Of the two, the House bill goes further down the wrong path, weakening protections for companies — including those based in the United States — that enable users to store, publish or sell goods online. The change could force such companies to monitor everything their users do, turning them into a private security force for copyright and trademark owners.

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