The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (and its Senate alternative, the Protect Intellectual Property Act [PIPA]) have been taking a bipartisan beating. Conservatives have joined with Leftists to savage the bill and thus its chances for passage.
I too am opposed to this iteration of SOPA – it remains too overly broad.
But something similar and more finely, sharply crafted – must become law. And conservatives will need to reorient themselves when a better version of the bill comes along – and support it.
We cannot look at the SOPA debate without putting it into the broader context of the immediately preceding Network Neutrality debate.
Conservatives rightly became highly tuned to Internet censorship as a result of the Left’s drive to impose the truly censorious Net Neutrality by any means necessary.
Following so closely on Net Neutrality’s heels, SOPA got swallowed up in this righteous protect-free-speech verve.
But there are some fundamental differences between SOPA and Net Neutrality that must be acknowledged.
SOPA addresses a legitimate problem – Net Neutrality does not.
SOPA is intended to shut down international stealing online. Which is a 10s if not 100s of billions of dollars a year problem.
We as Conservatives are for maximum freedom – within the confines of law and order. We believe in property rights as a fundamental building block for a free and prosperous society.
We can not stand by and allow theft – of this gi-normous magnitude – to go on unabated.
Net Neutrality was and remains a “solution” running around in search of a problem.
Allegedly necessary to stop private companies from blocking Internet content, even the most virulent Net Neutrality proponent begrudgingly admits there isn’t a single private company currently doing so.
But with China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and on, and on, and… – there are examples aplenty of governments blocking Internet content.
So the Left’s “solution” to alleged private sector content-blocking is to bring in government – the one entity that actually is serially blocking content all the world over.
Net Neutrality is a legitimate free speech problem – SOPA’s stolen speech is not “free speech.”
Unless by “free speech” the Left means no cost to them.
Net Neutrality’s assault is on private broadband networks. Which is how we get to every website on Planet Earth. It thusly places the government in control of every single website on Planet Earth.
So Net Neutrality is a legitimate, serious threat to free speech.
SOPA does what Net Neutrality does not – targets individual sites that are engaged in illegal activity. And can not do even that until a warrant from a judge is obtained.
Again, this site targeting must be made more narrow and specific. But the fact that SOPA deals with identified illegally-trading sites – and the fact that a judge and subsequent warrant must first be engaged – mitigates greatly the free speech concerns.
And stolen property is not magically transformed into protected speech just because someone after the heist hangs it on the Web.
Net Neutrality is a threat to all websites all the time – and there’s neither a judge nor his warrant standing in the way.
The anti-SOPA Left is in it for reasons other than those they state.
The same Leftists that have been screeching and misleading about the censorship dangers of a targeted, site(s)-specific SOPA – are the same Leftists who rammed through the far more dangerous, all-Internet-encompassing Net Neutrality.
On SOPA, they caterwaul things like:
But on Net Neutrality, it’s get-the-government-involved-at-all-costs – and complain that the government isn’t involved enough:
Late Monday, a majority of the FCC’s commissioners indicated that they’re going to vote with (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski for a toothless Net Neutrality rule…The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it’s become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users…
Julius Genachowski’s pretend net neutrality plan…Genachowski’s own statement…portends the expected disaster. The list of “supporters” of his rule include front groups being paid by the telecoms, and the Communication Workers of America, which has always lined up behind AT&T on net neutrality.
…The big telecom companies have claimed network neutrality violates their First Amendment rights by limiting their ability to act as editor of our online experience. But free speech is a two-way street and includes access to information…what threatens the Internet’s valuable democratic and participatory nature now isn’t the government, but corporate censorship…
Let us remember that there is literally no such thing as “corporate censorship” – at least as far as the Constitution is concerned. The First Amendment states that:
“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”
It provides protection only from/against – the government. You may or may not like what companies at any time do or do not do. But whatever it is – or is not – it is never a First Amendment violation. By definition.
So, again, the Left claims that Net Neutrality is a protection against censorship. When it dramatically increases the role of the only actual censorship agent there is – government.
The Left’s sudden interest, with SOPA, in preventing government involvement in the Web is only because of what the government would be doing under SOPA – protecting private property rights.
The Left, as we know, has never been a big fan of property rights. And they have no problem with the government minimizing or eliminating them.
Take the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – please. Or ask any landowner who has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocking their doing – anything on their land. The examples are myriad.
But get the government involved in protecting property rights – as SOPA does – and the Left goes nuts.
Think of their aversion to police officers having the audacity to, you know, enforce the law. Or to border patrol agents – enforcing the border. The examples are myriad.
The movies, music and other items being illegally sold on these SOPA sites are, of course, someone else’s stolen private property. And that doesn’t bother the Left a whit – in fact, they kind of like it.
For but one of the myriad examples out there, see: Google ripping off tens of thousands of books.
The Left cries “censorship” to sell their SOPA opposition to others – when it in reality has nothing to do with why they are opposed.
There will likely be down the road another version of SOPA-esque legislation offered. There quite simply has to be.
If it is improved sufficiently, we as property rights, law and order Conservatives should support it.
And leave the Theft-Libertarianism to the Leftists, with whom it belongs.