As a follow to yesterday’s post on the pending Internet-killing Stop Online Privacy Act, here’s some excerpts of a letter from Christine Montgomery, president of the Online News Association, calling on members to join with others in opposing the bill:
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Stop Online Piracy Act, better known as SOPA. With the House Judiciary Committee set to resume debate on the bill later this month, we thought it time to weigh in. As an organization representing thousands of content creators, ONA strongly condemns infringement of intellectual property and the violation of copyright. However, we believe SOPA would do little to stem those problems and would actually cause harm to the Internet and to the American public.
Indeed, the act — and its counterpart in the Senate, the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) — would inappropriately shut down websites, disrupt the free flow of legitimate information and limit Americans from fully exercising their First Amendment rights.
That is why, consistent with ONA’s desire and mission to keep the Internet open and vibrant, we join with others to oppose SOPA and PIPA. Furthermore, we encourage our members to contact their representatives in Congress and ask that they, too, oppose these bills.
Despite the laudable goals, the legislation is seriously flawed. As currently written, SOPA would allow the U.S. Justice Department to effectively shut down any foreign websites, including those owned by U.S. companies (e.g., ebay.fr, google.uk, and amazon.au) accused of infringing (or enabling the infringement of) copyrighted content. And the shutdown isn’t just for the alleged offending portion of the site. The entire site could be shut down.
To that end, SOPA allows the Attorney General to require U.S. Internet service providers to prevent access to an offending site, U.S. search engines to remove links to the site, payment services providers (such as Paypal, VISA and MasterCard) to cut off funds to the site, and ad networks to halt all advertising on the site.
An accusation of infringement (or enabling infringement) can also emanate from any private party — American or foreign — that obtains a court order declaring a foreign site dedicated to infringement. With such an order, payment services would have to cut off funds and ad networks would be required to halt all advertising on the site.