Fighting Internet Piracy Like The War On Drugs

THE ATLANTIC: Congress is weighing a bill that would fundamentally change how the Internet works. It would affect even the most casual web user, who does no more than browse Facebook or watch YouTube videos or store photos on Flickr. Despite its importance, few people understand the legislation: It sounds complicated to outsiders. But don’t tune out! A quick primer is enough to grasp the high stakes, and there are two huge payoffs: 1) You can help save the Internet. 2) You can see beyond this specific bill’s flaws to the general error in thinking its supporters embrace. That’s important, for the same error is behind many of the most destructive laws in the United States. Once you recognize it, you’ll see it everywhere. Who supports the Stop Online Piracy Act? Mostly copyright holders and their associations. Viacom. Time Warner. Disney. The Recording Industry Association of America. The Motion Picture Association of America. The Internet makes it easier to consume intellectual property bankrolled by these entities without paying for it. Perhaps you’ve illegally downloaded a song, or posted a TV show to YouTube, or downloaded a whole pirated movie from a foreign website. Having invested in producing lots of albums and feature-length films, it’s easy to understand why a Fox or Universal or BMI would want to prevent people from consuming them without paying. […] Thus the remedies proposed in the law. Fight for the Future, a group opposing the legislation, does a good job laying out the particulars and articulating specific objections in this short video. MORE

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

RELATED: There are times when our real-world laws get out of hand — when policy-makers and law enforcement act as if the commission of a particular crime demands a maximal response, as if anything less would irrevocably compromise the rule of law. Examples of such excesses are legion. A high-speed chase heading toward a busy intersection? Keep after the guy, pedal to the floor. Can’t enforce the arbitrary TSA safety requirements for air travel without groping the genitals of passengers or taking naked scans of their bodies? Oh well. There’s terrorists to be caught! Drug war not winnable unless we refashion municipal police forces into paramilitary squandrons, eviscerate the Fourth Amendment, and send DEA agents to intervene in Latin American civil wars? Allocate billions to the project, for the War on Drugs must be won. Can’t stop illegal immigrants from entering the country? Pass laws that require all public employees to note the legal status of those they interact with, no matter how disruptive to their civic functions or demeaning to legal Hispanics constantly asked for their papers. The Prohibition Mindset is my name for the attitude that widespread lawbreaking always calls for more draconian laws and law-enforcement tactics. Citing unlawful acts, the state asserts more power, which fails to reduce illegal behavior; the failure is used to justify more of the same approach; eventually society is harmed by the increasingly zealous enforcement efforts more than the underlying crime. A mature society is one that can distinguish between 1) times when lawbreaking requires new, more robust laws, 2) when the appropriate conclusion is that there will just always be some level of crime, and 3) when the prohibition itself is incompatible with a free society.  MORE

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