Special Interest Looms over Small Interest
A struggle of legendary proportions, small adversaries, Internet startups; go up against the giants, large corporations, in an epic battle to control, or not control, content on the World Wide Web. It is a classic Special Interest vs. Small Interest battle. Legislation introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex), SOPA: (Stop Online Piracy Act) (H.R.3261.IH), and PIPA: (Protect Intellectual Property Act), introduced back in October by Patrick Leahy, (D-Vermont) were conceived to thwart the seemly large amounts of copyrighted content being pirated worldwide. See (Observations on Efforts to Quantify the Economic Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods)
The proposed legislation would allow the government to block Internet sites which are considered pirates of content owned by corporations, which are backed by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. In an epic show of defiance sites such as Wikipedia and Reddit shut down for a day in protest of SOPA and PIPA contending the legislation would interfere with freedom of speech and would be dangerous to small companies wanting to secure a foothold on the Internet. Google, Facebook and others sent letters of protest or provided a link to protest.
Bad for Small Business
As always, censorship by government is not good news, reference the shut-down of (Megaupload) by the FBI contending the site was nothing more than a pirate haven. Assets were seized in Germany, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. If sites can be shut down and property seized now, why do we need legislation such as SOPIA and PIPA?
So, who would decide which sites do not comply with newly enacted laws? It would be a monumental over-step of government regulation to interfere with the Internet is such a fashion. Current laws are in place to police pirates and protect intellectual property; however, they seem not to be widely enforced. Such newly proposed laws could stifle the growth of startups and hinder the economic impact of job creation for millions of individuals while infringing on free speech. The ability of smaller companies to compete with larger more dominate corporations could shudder the free enterprise system as we know it today. See (SOPA Is Bad For Small Business)
SOPA and PIPA Tabled by the Senate
Due to the amount of protests from companies such as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook who depend on a wide array of businesses both large and small for their revenues, the Senate has tabled the markup of both bills in what seems to be a more concerted effort to stem the tide of dissent building on the Internet. Both Google and Facebook support alternative legislation introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-California). Legislators now think blanket censorship is now not the answer and want more discussion with both Intellectual Property owners and those affected by possible censorship. Bringing both parties together to establish a true consensus of dealing with piracy is a good idea. See (US Senate postpones SOPA and PIPA following protests)
Special Interests with Money can Steamroll Smaller Interests
It’s not uncommon for this type legislation to be introduced and gather wide support among those that have something to gain in aligning themselves with Special Interest Groups. With deep pockets both the Motion Picture Industry and the Recording Industry target Congressmen and Senators for large campaign donations to be heard, and to introduce preferred legislation. This is what happened with SOPA and PIPA. Without watchdog groups to circumvent lobbyist influence, unfair or un-vetted legislation can make its way through both House and Senate without much fanfare. It is only when the bills are examined more closely; by more objective interests do the ramifications of proposed legislation become evident. Fortunately, this is what occurred when opposing sides of the issue chose to inspect the intricacies of related to free speech, and impending economic impacts. See (How SOPA would affect you: FAQ)
While there is no debate over the need to police the amount of pirating which has infiltrated websites from other countries with less than stellar records of policing illegal content distribution, copyrighted material, and fake products, the bottom-line remains how to enforce existing laws while enacting new ones that do not trample on the good players. This is exactly what these referenced bills would do, interfere with the free-flow of Internet based information, products, and services while producing disastrous results.