The RIAA and MPAA have been fighting piracy for years and years, spending millions of dollars to prosecute people who very likely will never be willing to pay. They got a big boost on May 12 when Senator Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.) introduced the ProtectIP act. This has me worried and you should be worried too.The bill provides the government the power to shut down, or prevent users from accessing websites, that are “dedicated to infringing on intellectual property and copyrights” Any website the Department of Justice deems to fall under this definition can and will be blocked regardless of the originating site’s location (if it is based in Europe for example).
The most dangerous part of the bill allows the copyright owner to personally sue the owner(s) and operator(s) of the website directly which also provides the plantiff with an immediate injunction against the website. Essentially with little legal maneuvering any copyright owner can quickly and indefinitely shut down any website that is considered “dedicated to infringing.”
Now before everyone jumps down my throat about “Stealing is stealing!” you are right. I’m not condoning stealing or pirating things. If someone makes a living off of a product, you should pay them for their hard work. No matter how you slice it, using something that someone owns the copyright to and not paying for it is stealing. The problem with this legislature is not about making it harder to pirate things. The problem is the legislature is way to vague.
First off any law is going to be open to interpretation. I can easily see any lawyer going after any file sharing service (Dropbox for example). Dropbox is dedicated to storing and sharing files for example so any lawyer can argue that its dedication to sharing makes it fall under the ProtectIP Act and therefore should be shut down.
In an even broader sense this is just another freedom being controlled. Again it’s not about stealing, but this is the tip of the iceberg for a justification for the government to begin to control and filter what material I have access to on the Internet. Information is power and controlling it takes power away from the end user. Look at China for example. Any website any government official doesn’t like for whatever reason can be shut down in a heartbeat. I for one do not want an internet that restricted. The point of the internet is to share and distribute information freely, not be watered down and controlled.
I am all for people being paid for their work and their copyrights, I just think there has to be an easier and more fair way to do it.