Responding to a pair of petitions calling on President Obama to take a stand against two bills that threaten Internet freedom (the so-called “Stop Online Piracy Act” and “Protect IP”), three administration officials have published a position paper on the White House website which suggests that the administration does not find SOPA or PIPA acceptable as currently written — but unfortunately stops short of explicitly condemning either bill. The post appears to be an attempt to acknowledge opponents’ grievances without offending the powerful trade associations (MPAA, RIAA, etc.) that want the ability to start censoring the Internet at will.
Here’s an excerpt:
While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.
Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.
We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.
The three cosigners of the position paper (Victoria Espinel, Aneesh Chopra, Howard Schmidt) conclude by urging all sides to work together to pass legislation to curb copyright and trademark infringement in 2012, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the politics surrounding SOPA and PIPA.
SOPA and PIPA are before Congress because a cartel of media conglomerates and their industry mouthpieces are obsessed with trying to restrict digital freedom. The Internet is the one medium they don’t own, because it was designed to be decentralized. Like many other activists, users, and entrepreneurs, we believe the Internet’s decentralized design is its greatest strength — it’s what makes the Internet open and democratic, allowing for true two-way communication.
But media executives don’t like what they can’t control. They claim that online sharing of movies, books, music, and television shows is destroying their profits, and they want to stamp it out. That’s the justification they’ve offered for SOPA and PIPA. But that’s not what they are really after.
They don’t say so publicly, but their ambition is to cableize the Internet, or in other words, alter its design to make it more like cable television.
See, as long as the Internet remains decentralized, online sharing will be impossible to stamp out, and it will likewise be impossible to restrict how people timeshift and spaceshift content. Media conglomerates want to dismantle the Internet and replace it with a Medianet they can control.
That’s what SOPA and PIPA are really about: beginning the process of altering the Internet to make it more like cable television. The reason so many of the bill’s provisions seem harmful to free expression, e‑commerce, and innovation is because they’re supposed to be. It is no accident that these bills were written without input from Internet engineers, entrepreneurs, or users.
The MPAA and RIAA have been hoping to avoid a big public debate about this legislation, (correctly) fearing that it would lead to insurmountable opposition.
But despite their efforts to advance SOPA and PIPA as quietly as possible, opposition is growing by the day, and lawmakers the RIAA and MPAA had previously signed up as supporters are starting to back away.
We have no interest in attempting to find common ground with the likes of the RIAA and MPAA because we cannot trust them. They have already acted in bad faith by writing this legislation themselves and trying to ram it through Congress without a public debate. Besides, we don’t believe that online copyright and trademark infringement is a problem that can be solved through legislation.
We would not be opposed to thoughtfully drafted legislation intended to alleviate or mitigate infringement. But there’s nothing thoughtful or sensible about SOPA or PIPA. These bills have been crafted to damage and undermine the Internet by corporations that fear the Internet. They must be stopped.