SOPA, which aims to protect intellectual property, is considered by Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties groups as a threat to human rights and whistleblowing. Ron Paul has joined others in opposing the bill.
Here at Death and Taxes, we have come out against the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA), agreeing with Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU that the legislation presents a threat to human rights and whistleblowing. In the Senate, the bill is known as Protect IP Act, where Rep. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has put the bill on hold.
SOPA was originally intended to prohibit websites from hosting copyrighted material. The legislation has been backed by MPAA (Hollywood studios) and RIAA (music industry) lobbyists and is largely supported by the Republican and Democratic heads of the committees considering SOPA.
However, it does have some opponents in the House, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who has stated SOPA “would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”
SOPA might well severely restrict the work of human rights advocates and dissidents who use the internet anonymously.
For example, the Tor, an anonymous network used by activists and whistleblowers to communicate and send files that cannot be accessed by authorities could find its service shut down at the ISP level because there might be suspicion that the network is being used to transfer intellectual property, such as movies.
As the Washington Post notes, opposition to the bill is growing. Now Ron Paul, ever the Libertarian, has come out in opposition to SOPA, which is the sort of legislation that always stirs the Doctor into action.
Paul was part of a bi-partisan group that sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee outlining their opposition to the bill. The group included Reps. Anna Eshoo (D), Doris Matsui (D), Mike Thompson (D), John Campbell (R), Zoe Lofgren (D), Mike Honda (D), George Miller (D), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Mike Doyle (D- Penn.).
Ron Paul is correct to line up against SOPA. However, he and the other representatives are approaching the issue from the perspective of a business perspective—that is, do not damage the technology industry, “one of the few bright spots in our economy,” as the letter reads.
As I noted in a previous piece on SOPA, a strong case can be made that “SOPA will severely constrict the flow of information from people promoting freedom, civil liberty and free information. Only a portion of the site might contain copyrighted material, but if it does, the entire site could be hamstrung, as was the case with WikiLeaks through Senator Joe Lieberman’s efforts with Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.”
It is good to not restrict the internet for business purposes, but it is far better to ensure that those activists and dissidents who use the internet to facilitate change don’t find it impossible to do their work.