The American entertainment complex—Hollywood, the networks, the stations, cable, the record labels—has placed before Congress a simple request: Give us a law to punish Google, PayPal, the Web ad industry, and anybody else doing business on the Internet who may play some intermediary role in connecting foreign “pirates” to consumers seeking illegal access to copyrighted content.
The House of Representatives and Senate have bowed to the entertainment complex’s request. The House bill is called the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s genuflection goes by the name of the PROTECT IP Act. Rather than just punishing copyright violators, these bills would give the U.S. government new powers to black out Web sites, impose new monitoring rules on search engines and other Web services, rejig the architecture of the Internet, short-circuit the usual due process for Web sites, and authorize new surveillance for a government that just can’t seem to get enough. (See Alex Howard’s learned delineation of the bills from late November.)
So grand is the entertainment complex’s umbrage that I half expect its next move will be to petition the Department of Justice for the authority to shut down the electric utilities that provide power to any and all computers it suspects are pinching its intellectual property.
A survey piece about the SOPA/PIP controversy in yesterday’s New York Times gave Tom Rothman, the co-chief executive of Fox Filmed Entertainment, the opportunity to spout his industry’s pique. He says:
Our mistake was allowing this romantic word—piracy—to take hold…It’s really robbery—it’s theft—and that theft is being combined with consumer fraud…Consumers are purchasing these goods, they’re sending their credit card information to these anonymous offshore companies, and they’re receiving defective goods.