Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA, PIPA, and Due Process

By now hopefully everyone in the US has heard about SOPA and PIPA. But why are these laws bad? Isn't it good to eliminate rogue sites dealing in illegal goods? Of course it is, but that's why we have courts and due process.

Procedural Due Process protects individual against laws by allowing them a fair opportunity to affect the result of a judgement, in other words people have the right to their day in court. The DMCA eliminated due process by allowing content owners to have content removed from sites without going to court. The copyright holder issues a DMCA Takedown notice and the websites are obliged to remove the content.

That may seem fair, except the media companies (i.e., the backers of SOPA and PIPA) have been abusing the DMCA to take down content the do not own, for example YouTube videos they disagree with. SOPA and PIPA extend this ability to remove content by allowing the copyright owners to remove entire sites from the internet.

The backers of SOPA and PIPA will tell you they only target foreign rogue sites. But who is to say what is rogue? DailyMotion is foreign (French), and they probably have rogue content uploaded by users. Should the whole of DailyMotion, a French site, be eliminated from the internet because a US media company doesn't like them? No. Megaupload is foreign (Hong Kong), US media companies clearly think Megaupload is rogue, even if they are a legitimate business that responds to DMCA Takedown notices. If SOPA or PIPA passes Megaupload would be kicked off the internet. That's censorship. We already have copyright laws and courts to enforce them, we don't need to eliminate due process.

So what if media company wrongly kicks DailyMotion or YouTube off the internet, DailyMotion or YouTube could sue the media company or service providers that helped them, right? I mean we're talking about millions or billions in revenue. Nope. The laws are written so the media companies and service providers cannot be held liable.

The Khan Academy has an excellent video explaining SOPA and PIPA, I highly recommend watching it:
What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling

If you don't believe me that media companies abuse the DMCA, read these news articles:
Viacom uploads videos from Kinko's, then sues YouTube over them

Universal Music removes Megaupload Song from YouTube, claiming they own the copyright, even though they don't

Warner Brothers issues takedown notices to Hotfile for content they don't own

Contact Congress to voice your opposition.