My letter to Representative John Carter regarding SOPA

Congressman Carter,

I was disappointed to read on Propublica.org that you are in support of SOPA. I make my living building web sites. Prior to this I studied and worked in the print news industry. (Just to cap things off I am also a proud former Navy reservist & worked with digital technology onboard ships.)

I believe SOPA creates a problem that is nowhere near as problematic as its proponents claim. Rather, this is a subsidy to the MPAA and Hollywood with police powers. Publisher Tim O’Reilly wrote,

“As a publisher, I have a very deep experience here, and the fact is that piracy is not a significant problem. Yes, there are people who are pirating my books, there are people who are sharing links to places where they can be downloaded. But the vast majority of customers are willing to pay if the product is widely available and the price is fair. If you have a relationship with your customers, and they know you’re doing the right thing, they will support you.”

He is correct. People don’t buy movies from Hollywood like they used to when Hollywood is treating them (us) as criminals before any wrongdoing has happened.

Have you tried to play a Blu-ray lately? You are not able to skip straight to the movie. Rather, Hollywood has placed blocks mandating you see the red anti-priracy screen, then you have to watch each preview, then you have to wait for the menu to load. Then and only then do you get to see the movie that you bought. It’s no wonder Netflix and Amazon video are flourishing. It’s easier to watch a movie that way. If you piss off the people who want to give you money, they’ll soon find someone else to give their money to.

I think SOPA is the latest effort from old Hollywood to legislate subsidies for their sinking profits.

More:

http://gigaom.com/2012/01/13/tim-oreilly-why-im-fighting-sopa/

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/01/internet-regulation-and-the-economics-of-piracy.ars

The penalty aspect of SOPA is just downright evil and unconstituional. Rather than a day in court, SOPA would mandate a hosting provider remove a suspect site from the Internet before guilt has been established.

One, that’s a violation of due process and as such, is unconstitutional. It’s also a potential violation of free speech. Why support a bill that will fail a court test?

Two, the mechanics behind this action stand to break the Internet as we know it. Rather than a single, global free-flowing source of knowledge, there would be a Balkanized system of isolated webs disconnected from each other.

How does this help make the Internet safe and secure? SOPA mandates a methodology of filtering domain names be put into place. This is a risky proposition. You’re building, by law, a method that could eventually be compromised.

From Stanford Law Review:

“Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever. For example, SOPA establishes a scheme under which an IP rights holder need only notify credit card companies of the facts supporting its “good faith belief” that an identified Internet site is “primarily designed or operated for the purpose of” infringement. The recipients of that notice will then have five days to cease doing business with the specified site by taking “technically feasible and reasonable” steps to prevent it “from completing payment transactions” with customers. And all of this occurs based upon a notice delivered by the rights holder, which no neutral third party has even looked at, let alone adjudicated on the merits. If they get the assistance of a court, IP owners can also prevent other companies from “making available advertisements” to the site, and the government can prevent search engines from pointing to that site.”

Rep. Carter, I am asking you to publicly withdraw your support for SOPA. As a registered Republican in your constuency, I believe it is your duty to do so.

Thank you for your elected service to this great nation. I look forward to your reply on this matter.

Pat Ramsey