Hollywood may have bitten off more than they can chew.
The studios got their lackeys in Congress to put forward a bill called SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act.
Rather than target those actually infringing on copyright – it targets anyone who links to sites that allegedly infringe – including search engines such as Google. It basically wants Google and others to act as filters on behalf of Hollywood – a law China could be proud of.
The ramifications are massive. Someone might post a comment on Kiwiblog mentioning the name of a site which tells you where some good torrent sites are. Bang – Kiwiblog is out of the search engines.
But it gets worse than that. Under SOPA, ISPs (US ones anyway) could be forced to block access to sites. Just like in Syria and Libya. A summary of views against from Wikipedia:
On TIME‘s Techland blog, Jerry Brito wrote, “Imagine if the U.K. created a blacklist of American newspapers that its courts found violated celebrities’ privacy? Or what if France blocked American sites it believed contained hate speech?” Similarly, the Center for Democracy and Technology warned, “If SOPA and PIPA are enacted, the US government must be prepared for other governments to follow suit, in service to whatever social policies they believe are important—whether restricting hate speech, insults to public officials, or political dissent.”
Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard University professor of constitutional law, released an open letter on the web stating that SOPA would “undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”
My views are simple. No Government should censor the Internet. If people access illegal material on the Internet then they should be held liable in a court for that. If people commit crimes on the Internet, then they should be arrested for that. And yes if people infringe copyright on the Internet, they should be liable under the law. But to have laws giving the power to require all ISPs in a country to block particular sites is a practice that should remain the norm in China, not the US and definitely not NZ.
Amusingly the MPAA has actually cited China in their advocacy, with the MPAA Chairman having said that as Google has figured out how to block sites when China requests it, it can’t be that big an issue.
Anyway the backlash has begun and could be huge. Wikipedia is closing down later today for 24 hours as part of a black out protest. I can just imagine the millions of pissed off Americans who will be e-mailing their complaints into Congress.
Think if Google did the same? Maybe even for just three hours the search engines all turned off and displayed a protest page?
The MPAA and RIAA are used to being the biggest players in the game. I think they are about to find out they’re not.