TechFreedom joined a diverse array of thirteen public interest groups in a coalition letter expressing concerns about H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). TechFreedom's Larry Downes explained his reservations in a statement about the bill and, earlier, at a Congressional Internet Caucus briefing last event last week featuring both sides of the issue. Just as we have been outspoken in our skepticism about other forms of Internet regulation—especially "net neutrality"—we worry about the unintended consequences of this bill.
We are, of course, strong believers in property rights, and are serious about enforcing copyrights and trademarks. SOPA as constructed would come at too high a cost to lawful Internet expression and communication. The bill would lead to years of costly litigation, creating potentially massive regulatory uncertainty for one of America's most innovative wealth creating sectors." Its meaning would essentially be decided by the courts, not Congress, as recently explained by Ryan Radia of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which also joined the letter.
The letter's concerns include the following:
We do not dispute that there are hubs of online infringement. But the definitions of the sites that would be subject to SOPA’s remedies are so broad that they would encompass far more than those bad actors profiting from infringement. By including all sites that may – even inadvertently – “facilitate” infringement, the bill... [means] a nondomestic startup video-sharing site with thousands of innocent users sharing their own noninfringing videos, but a small minority who use the site to criminally infringe, could find its domain blocked
[SOPA's] private right of action.... would bypass and effectively overturn the basic framework of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), by pushing user-driven sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to implement ever-more elaborate monitoring systems to “confirm,” to the satisfaction of the most aggressive and litigious rightsholder, whether individual users are exchanging infringing content....
DNS-filtering is trivial to circumvent and will be ineffective at stopping infringement.... but [would set] a precedent for other countries, even democratic ones, to use the same mechanisms to enforce a range of domestic policies, effectively balkanizing the global medium of the Internet.
In short, we urge policymakers to maintain a healthy skepticism about regulation of the Internet. That requires asking hard questions about crafting enforcement tools that are narrowly tailored to the problem—and consistent with the values of constitutionally limited government and the rule of law.