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January 20, 2012

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RM

I love the show; it's a great resource for local and state politics.

That said, I thought the talk about SOPA and PIPA this week was lacking. With all due respect to Dr. Zelden, he came off poorly informed when he didn't even know what the bills' acronyms stood for (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act).

The talk quickly switched to ideas for how the industry could adapt to the internet without properly explaining why there was so much opposition to these two bills.

The general gist of it was twofold:

1. The bills included language that would create a situation where foreign websites could be blocked for US eyes only. Instead of what happens now, where the DOJ will work with foreign governments to take down infringing websites with due process involved, there would be a US government blacklist which US service providers (eg. Comcast, Time Warner) and US internet companies (eg. Google, this very site) would have the burden of enforcing. A person in the United States would not have the same internet available as a person in another country.

2. The bills included language that implied that US media companies would have authority to designate which websites were infringing. The websites would then be added to the blacklist without allowing the alleged infringing websites to defend themselves.

You can imagine why internet companies and users were so up in arms. While the United States is not China and will probably not censor free speech, this type of blacklist sets bad precedent and fundamentally changes what the internet is all about. Moreover, the government has more than enough tools at their disposal to go after clandestine websites, as was seen last week with the indictment of Megaupload where defendants were scattered across the globe, without needing to censor the internet for US eyes only.

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