During the past two weeks, I have received hundreds of calls, emails, and letters about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Today, both the House and the Senate Leadership decided not to move forward with this legislation because of opposition from internet sites and other groups concerned with the bill.
Since the internet first became accessible to all Americans, there have been arguments about whether or not to place regulations on the information posted on the World Wide Web. I am a strong supporter of first amendment rights and free speech. Opponents argue that SOPA and PIPA could put a tremendous legal burden on websites accused of third-party copyright infringement and could cause their removal from search engines. This is why Google and Wikipedia have taken such bold stands against this bill. While I agree that the federal government does have a role in protecting intellectual property rights, it should do so in a way that does not weaken internet security, disrupt business growth, or restrict our 1st amendment rights.
Advocates for SOPA and PIPA have argued that these bills will serve to protect intellectual property, which includes songs, movies, videos, books, and ideas the author would otherwise be able to draw a profit from. SOPA and PIPA advocates claim these bills will protect U.S. citizens from being taken advantage of by "rogue websites" that are often created in other countries and profit from the theft of US intellectual property. Some sell knockoffs of consumer products, like clothing and accessories, while others show pirated versions of American movies and allow downloading of stolen songs and videos. These rogue sites do not pay taxes, they do not adhere to manufacturing standards, and they do not respect U.S. laws. Instead, they steal American jobs and harm consumers. Copyright infringement should be taken very seriously as some rely on the protection of their work to pay the bills and put food on the table.
I have reservations about the way these bills seek to govern those rights. We have to make sure we guard U.S. citizens' rights, while also protecting American ideas.