“NO” on SOPA and PIPA

Although no action is imminent, the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261), known as SOPA, and the Protect IP Act (S.968), known as PIPA, remain a priority for many in Congress. Both SOPA and PIPA purport to stop the theft of intellectual property from foreign-based websites. While well-intentioned, the manner in which these bills attempt to achieve those goals is unworkable and includes a host of unintended and dangerous consequences.

One of the main issues of SOPA and PIPA is that they force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block access to websites that have been accused of facilitating copyright infringement.  Blocking access will likely slow down domain name resolution for the entire internet, while eroding the necessary trust the system needs. It would also set a dangerous precedent of allowing our government – and others – to filter domains. Fortunately, all sides have signaled this provision could be dropped.

Further, the legislation would put a tremendous legal burden on websites accused of third-party copyright infringement and would cause them to be removed from search engines.  Opponents have compared the legislation to China’s online censorship. Even if they made an honest mistake, they would be faced with litigation from the U.S. Attorney General. Fighting the accusations would cost so much time and money that smaller sites would likely go out of business fighting. Private lawsuits could also be brought against the websites. This would open up the potential for massive lawsuit abuse – even though the vast majority of online piracy occurs through a small number of websites.

While 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 growth or restrict free speech rights. To date, SOPA and PIPA fail to meet that standard.

Heritage Action opposes SOPA and PIPA and if they come to a vote will include them as a key vote on our scorecard.

Related Links:
Online Piracy and Internet Security: Congress Asks the Right Questions but Offers the Wrong Answers
Online Piracy and SOPA: Beware of Unintended Consequences
SOPA: Another Government Power Grab