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Legal Daily News Feature

This Millennium’s McCarthyism: SOPA and PIPA By Rebecca E. Neely In recent days, mass online protests have swept the nation as millions have taken a stand against proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation, which, on many fronts, appears to shaping up as this millennium’s brand of McCarthyism.

01/24/12 Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, it’s unlikely you haven’t seen or heard about the blackouts of certain websites, including the very popular Wikipedia. As well, Google’s ‘black box’ greeting yesterday to visitors – “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the Web!” urged visitors to sign a petition for Congress to reject the bills. But what exactly are SOPA and PIPA, and what could it mean to your future online experiences? First, SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act, and it is the bill sponsored by the House, and PIPA stands for Protect IP Act, and it’s the bill sponsored by the Senate. In essence, critics, who include mainly Internet companies, feel the proposed legislation will allow online censorship, as well as put the kibosh on virtual growth and innovation. However, proponents, which include mainly the movie and music industries, as well as heavy hitter business-lobbying group U.S. Chamber of Commerce, feel the bills will fight piracy that takes place by websites operating outside the United States. Okay, that sounds reasonable, right? Piracy is a bad thing. Protection of intellectual property and protection against counterfeit goods is a good thing, right? Yes, of course. But to get that protection, there’s a price. Basically, both bills, though they differ slightly, allow the Justice Department to mandate “information location” services to remove links to Web sites that are suspected of pirating. In addition, the legislation will place a ridiculous burden on


sites like Google and Wikipedia to in effect police links from their sites to determine if they link to websites red flagged for piracy. Basically, it’s like putting up road blocks; certain websites could be hidden from search engines merely because a company has concerns with what’s being done with material or media that’s copyrighted. And once it starts, where does it stop? Wow, that almost smacks of government censorship, doesn’t it? The fallout, not only to the online world, but to the economy, and the legal industry, would be massive and far reaching. Commerce would suffer. Already backlogged courts would be brought to their knees. Worst of all, would U.S. citizens, in effect, be denied freedom of speech? The Washington Post reports that support for the bills appears to be waning, in light of the recent online protests. The numbers? Per the Washington Post, Google reported 4.5 million people signed its petition against the legislation. As well, the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization under which Wikipedia is housed, reported over 8 million U.S. visitors viewed their Congressional representatives via its site. In addition, the group gave an estimate that over 160 million people viewed the blackout landing page. Non-profit, The Fight for the Future, which coordinated the overall Web movement, reported in recent days it had received some 300,000 e-mails to members of Congress, and that number was continuing to grow. If you’re an active user of the internet, it’s time to get involved: visit Google, or merely type in the search engine the acronym SOPA or PIPA. The message is clear. Stop this millennium’s ‘McCarthyism’, and the blacklisting, before it ever gets started.

This Millennium's McCarthyism: SOPA and PIPA  

In recent days, mass online protests have swept the nation as millions have taken a stand against proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation, which,...