Bob Goodlatte – Protecting Us Online? Not So Much!

Posted by Red State Virginia   // November 22, 2011   // Comments Off

By: Karen Kwiatkowski – Candidate For Congress in Virginia’s 6th District

The Stop Online Piracy Act  (SOPA) and “Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation” Act or “E-Parasite” were introduced this week in the House Judiciary Committee.  E-Parasite begins with this mission statement: “To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.”

Unfortunately, nothing in this bill, and the associated SOPA, promotes prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Representative Zoe Lofgren’s (CA-16) reaction to the bill was, “this would mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”

NetCoalition, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association identified some of the bigger flaws, including criminalization of average people and the creation of new costly legal vulnerabilities for websites and service providers.

The House SOPA – in theory, representing the interests of “the people” – went far beyond the Senate’s companion PIPA legislation.  PIPA criminalized 10 instances of streaming copyrighted content;  Bob Goodlatte, currently representing the 6th District of Virginia and a strong Patriot Act supporter, intends to put you in prison for doing it just once.  SOPA/E-Parasite will target people for posting music in the background of videos, dancing to pop songs, or playing in cover bands, and it will criminalize “individuals and sites providing the streamed content.”

That’s not all. Goodlatte’s bill also targets cloud service providers, social networks and other new technologies that simply have the potential of being misused by customers.  Sites like Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Ebay, Dropbox, Carbonite, and others that could “induce” infringement will be in legal and financial danger based on what their users post or transfer, potentially undermining the long-standing Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

Undermining the DMCA?  Well, in Goodlatte’s own words, E-Parasite will correct weaknesses in the DMCA and “[he thinks] it is unrealistic to continue to rely on the DMCA notice-and-takedown provision.”  Instead, the new legislation requires intensive “self-policing” by service providers and website owners, or else.  As a result of this detailed and comprehensive requirement to know the copyright status of everything on your site at all times, simply receiving a notice and takedown request will predictably result in immediate takedowns of content, links, and advertising.

In effect a website can be – and many will be — shut down simply on an accusation, without proof or legal oversight, of copyright infringement.   Dealing with false or mistaken or simply wrong notices?   Not Congress’s concern.  That ought to be a real boon for dynamic information sharing, creativity, entrepreneurial growth, and innovation.

What does it all mean?

Gary Shapiro, President of the Consumer Electronics Association, said the legislation, “greatly expands the power and reach of the federal government to target lawful consumers and entrepreneurs on the Internet at the expense of preserving the freedom and dynamism that has made the Internet a great source of wealth, jobs and innovation for the last two decades.” claims the bills will create an Internet blacklist, putting the United States on par with China and Saudi Arabia.   Shapiro explains that after “a site is identified as infringing on copyright, the government would erase any and all links to the site, as well as instruct Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon to cease all access to the site.”

Techdirt writes that “The more you look at the details, the more you realize how this bill is an astounding wishlist of everything that the legacy entertainment gatekeepers have wanted in the law for decades and were unable to get.”

On the other hand, congressional co-sponsor Goodlatte flatly rejected the notion it imposes a new regulatory structure on the Internet and insisted, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Let’s break it down.

Government laws that hamper freedom and kill productivity?  Check.

Congress protecting legacy and rent-seeking industries who are unwilling to innovate in the face of rapidly changing technologies, consumer demands and interactions?    Check.

Legislating a government-corporate wishlist to enhance government’s ability to extract massive amounts of data on citizens and businesses, and satisfy the uncompetitive corporations who donate heavily to their campaigns?  Check.

Congressmen calling their citizen critics  “wrong,” “posturing,” or “unrealistic.”  Check.

There is good news.  The outpouring of criticism and anger from so many who oppose this legislation is having an effect.  There are not many congressional co-sponsors for SOPA/E-Parasite, and some are already running scared.

This legislation also gives those in liberty, art and technology communities a reason to talk about Constitutional concepts of innocent until proven guilty, and what it really means to be secure in your person, houses, papers and effects.

Lastly, I live in the 6th District of Virginia, a district with more than our fair share of constitutionalists, entrepreneurs, technology corridors and educational institutions.  In the June 2012 primary, we’re planning a small revolution against Goodlatte’s prosperity-destroying, creativity-killing, entrepreneur-smashing, and innovation-obliterating corporate-state solutions.   Join us!

Red State Virginia

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