Many people have considered the recent acts by the United States government not only illegal, but also a clear example of internet censorship. One act that has been proposed, dubbed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), had an extensive list of “can’t do’s” that even encompassed linking to a website that sold counterfeit materials!
SOPA is a brash and ineffective attempt to stop piracy and the end result would only lead to significant penalties to innocent individuals who did nothing wrong. The true pirates could easily escape and create new, and much more elaborate, methods of piracy which would allow them to easily circumvent the harsh rules set forth by SOPA.
While SOPA is not official, thankfully, it now has a new opponent: Google. The largest search engine, and the largest internet company, actually agreed and stated that SOPA was indeed a form of censorship. Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, made the statement earlier on SOPA.
Eric Schmidt aptly stated the opinion of the majority when he claimed that:
Their goal is reasonable, their mechanism is terrible. They should not criminalize the intermediaries. They should go after the people that are violating the law.
Eric Schmidt also compared the SOPA act as something akin to other suppressive government’s actions such as China. He claimed that if the United States were to make it against the law to link to a site that has counterfeit material then it would effectively force the content off the Internet – which is nothing less than censorship.
Google’s Executive Chairman also took a shot at the recent actions the United States has taken against the DNS. The DNS is the Internet domain name system which is where domain name registrars distribute official domains for websites. This system is overseen by ICANN and is the basic fundamentals upon which the entire Internet is built upon. As Eric Schmidt truthfully pointed out, the United States undermined Internet security and the DNS with their recent domain seizures.
While Eric Schmidt did have plenty to say about the Stop Online Piracy Act, he unfortunately did not comment on the opposing Act. Up against SOPA is the OPEN act, an act which is focused solely on those who are breaking the law, not everyone else involved. With the OPEN act, those counterfeit websites will be cut off from making monetary transactions which will (hopefully) cease their piracy.
As you know House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith is responsible for the proposition of the SOPA act and he was not speechless against Google’s verbal assault of his proposition. However, Smith did not address the clear censorship allegations and concerns that many have with the SOPA act, instead he decided to deflect people’s attention to a recent lawsuit that Google settled:
Google recently paid a half billion dollars to settle a criminal case because of the search-engine giant’s active promotion of rogue foreign pharmacies that sold counterfeit and illegal drugs to U.S. patients. As a result of their actions, the health and lives of many American patients may have been endangered. Their opposition to this legislation is self-serving since they profit from doing business with rogue sites.
With Google now openly opposing the United States SOPA act, we can only hope that the House sees reason and doesn’t vote this act in and make it official.