This is a criminal defense law blog. For a criminal defense law office. As a criminal defense lawyer, I usually write about things that are of interest to those looking for criminal defense attorneys, or for other criminal defense attorneys, or just people who are interested in criminal defense.
But what someone has — or, rather, a few very rich someones have — been trying to do is a crime.
So today, I’m writing about SOPA/PIPA. Sounds like some kind of disease, doesn’t it? Soh’-pah pih’-pah. Maybe a virus.
And it is, actually. It’s the most powerful Internet virus yet.
SOPA/PIPA are bills being debated in the House of Representatives and Senate respectively to make it easier for the entertainment industry — essentially those wonderful folks from the MPAA — to shut down Internet websites that they think are infringing on their intellectual property.
The MPAA, for those who have been living under a rock, is the company that likes to sue grandmothers, even dead grandmothers, homeless people, filed thousands of other lawsuits, some of which were utterly ridiculous, targeted downloads of movies they for which they might not even own rights, and even hired hackers — because the MPAA is all about making everyone 100% legal — to go after its enemies.
So they’ve tried using lawsuits. They’ve tried using hackers. They’ve tried co-opting law enforcement agencies to work as their own private police force. (They’ve had some success, as some police forces even use deadly force to stop movie pirates.) Now they’ve decided it’s necessary to give the entertainment industry control over who can access the Internet.
All this, for nothing.
And now they’re pissed that people are fighting back.
I think Ken at Popehat put it best. Ken quotes an MPAA press release, which states:
Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.
As Ken explains,
Only the MPAA and a used-up ex-Senator like Dodd could imbue “technology business interests” with a mock-populist sneer whilst lobbying for one of the titans of American business interests. Note also the sneer at internet users, who are mere “pawns” of sites participating in the blackout.
The only thing I can add to that analysis is to explicitly point out the irony Ken impliedly notes: the MPAA complains that people opposing the MPAA attempt to turn everyone (and the Internet) into mere pawns of the MPAA are doing so only because they are “mere ‘pawns'” of those who oppose being made into MPAA pawns.
Okay. Maybe I could have said that better.
It is, however, that convoluted. The MPAA wants control of You, the Internet, and Everything. They want to ensure it all exists for their benefit alone. Anyone who protests is a mere tool of…um…those who protest.
Well, I’m fine with that. I’d much rather be my own tool than to be moved about as an MPAA pawn. As I understand it, if SOPA/PIPA were to pass, my own website might one day be shut down on a trumped-up infringement charge. (For the record, most of the media I use here is purchased by me from iStockPhoto; some is created by me with my own camera and Photoshop; some may come from other sources, but, so far as I know, via linkage or by virtue of being in the public domain.)
And speaking of tools, SOPA/PIPA could become a mighty-fine tool for the government to use to shut down websites whose speech they dislike, while pretending not to violate the First Amendment.
Don’t believe me? Ask people who get arrested after shoplifting pens and pencils, or packs of gum, and charged with felony burglary because misdemeanor petty theft doesn’t satisfy the government. In my own experience, these are what I call “tonal crimes” — if your skin is the wrong tone, you’re a burglar; if it’s the right tone, you’re charged with petty theft.
In any event, SOPA/PIPA is why a number of websites, including this one, will be offline for at least part of the day on January 18, 2012. Want to know that the potential impact of SOPA/PIPA could be?
When you see all the sites that go offline tomorrow, just imagine if we were shut down not by our voluntary protest, but because we’d pissed off the wrong people, and they had SOPA/PIPA in their toolbox.