19

Jan

2012

Censor This!

Unless you imagelive under a rock, you’ve noticed the domination of SOPA and PIPA in the news over the last few weeks. This week, sites like Google, Wikipedia, and Reddit sounded their “We Will Not Be Silenced!” battle cry by, ironically, running blackout or brownout campaigns on their sites. Even the whimsical folks at icanhascheezburger.com fought back.

With no White House support, the Internet has won a decisive early battle against Congress and Hollywood—two of the largest and oldest institutions of power in the United States. But “Son of SOPA” isn’t far behind, and I can’t help but wonder what the long term effects of this debate will have on how the Internet balances rights and responsibilities?

I often discuss the conflicting values of speech disclosure and privacy discretion. These values are in natural tension, creating blurry lines that defy crisp, “one size fits all” policies. SOPA is a perfect example.

Congress, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley can’t agree on whether piracy is an enforcement issue, a legal issue, or a business model issue. Without a clear understanding of the problem, a sweeping proposal like DNS blockers (now withdrawn from SOPA) is a naive government overreach—a legislative chainsaw masquerading as a scalpel. 

The problem with SOPA/PIPA is not its intention to prevent pirated content. Intellectual property should be protected. The issue is whether Congress can be trusted to resolve the delicate tension between the values of speech and property protection. Can Congress deftly shape the Internet without killing it? I’m doubtful. Like we’ve seen in the music industry over the last decade, the right solution will likely emerge from unlikely innovation that strikes the right balance between these long held conflicting values.

  1. jim-adler posted this

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