“SOPA: An Architecture for Censorship”

by Walter Olson on December 21, 2011

The proposed law is being promoted as a way of blocking piratical “rogue” sites, but once it’s up and working, and internet providers have begun automatically blocking sites from a list continually updated by the government, it won’t stop with copyright and trademark infringers. Extending the interdiction to other sorts of sites will be a relatively simple and straightforward matter:

With the legal framework in place, expanding it to cover other conduct — obscenity, defamation, “unfair competition,” patent infringement, publication of classified information, advocacy in support of terror groups — would be a matter of adding a few words to those paragraphs.

How long before a sentimental Congress yields to demands to block suicide- or anorexia-promotion sites, or perhaps those accused of glorifying the taking of illegal drugs or profiting from depictions of animal cruelty? [Julian Sanchez, Cato, more; earlier] More: Stephen DeMaura and David Segal, Roll Call (potential use against political candidates), Bill Wilson (ALG), The Hill, Stanford Law Review, “Don’t Break the Internet”.

{ 8 comments }

1 J.T. Wenting 12.21.11 at 11:40 am

or an attorney general who sees his favourite candidate for the presidency getting bad ratings bans blogs and other websites from opposition groups…

2 Mannie 12.21.11 at 11:55 am

Or shutting down rival political websites because of some alleged copyrighted content.

3 Ayuh 12.21.11 at 12:29 pm

There are at least two ways around SOPA already written and available: http://lifehacker.com/5869665/desopa-for-firefox-bypasses-sopa-dns-blocking

SOPA will only work on those too tech illiterate to install an extension. Quite likely browsers will simply incorporate such devices so that even the tech illiterate will evade SOPA.

4 mojo 12.21.11 at 1:02 pm

“Why, that’s just CRAZY talk!”
– Famous Last Words

5 Anonymous Attorney 12.21.11 at 1:54 pm

Or websites accused of being “racist” or “anti-Semitic”… that would probably be Target No. 1.

6 David Eggers 12.22.11 at 12:29 am

I can already see the economic opportunities this law will create. Companies you can pay to monitor the web sites of people you don’t like for copyrighted images, videos, icons, and links to report to the authorities.

7 ps 12.22.11 at 2:11 am

or websites that are anti-lawyer would be target no. 2.

8 Jerryskids 12.25.11 at 3:51 pm

With the legal framework in place, expanding it to cover other conduct …..

That is pretty much the definition of our government at work.

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