The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.031 Friday, 27 January 2012
Date: January 26, 2012 3:53:02 PM EST
Subject: Re: PIPA/SOPA
I would echo Gabriel Egan’s concerns about the proposed PIPA/SOPA law. Although Larry Weiss evidently finds Gabriel’s worries about a “Star Chamber proceeding” alarmist, that alarm is exceedingly well-founded. The chief thrust of the PIPA/SOPA legislation is to create extra-judicial “remedies” for those who wish to pull the plug on a given web site, remedies that utterly circumvent due process and misplace the burden of proof. It is in fact a bill designed to create Star Chamber proceedings, and this such proceedings are not incidental but the primary goal. (The unspoken mottoes of the bill are “No more YouTubes” and “No more inconvenient requirement to sue.”)
The objection that the law “is unlikely to pass . . . in anything like its present form” strikes me as no reason not to oppose the present form of the law. The proposed law does have powerful sponsors, both inside and outside Congress, who seem deeply committed to passing the elements of the law which seem most objectionable. Passage of those noxious measures, sooner or later, is not only possible but probable unless such measures are actively resisted. Nor does the implication that the law will eventually pass in some as-yet-unknown but more palatable compromise version, about which we need not worry, have any genuine value as an argument. No such compromise legislation exists, and so appeals to its reasonable nature are simply appeals to Larr Weiss’s imagination.
And while Larry Weiss seems to sniff at Gabriel Egan as a copyright violator, surely it should be acknowledged that the scope of what is “protected” by copyright has grown enormously in the recent past, and the domain protected by fair use has correspondingly shrunk, driven in almost every case by the agenda of deep-pocketed plaintiffs. Copyright piracy is not what it used to be; rather, it is now a great many more things than it used to be. That expansion of property rights has been defined by what one set of parties, the owners, decide to be reasonable. PIPA/SOPA would enforce those parties’ opinions of their own deserts with the full power of the law. That, surely, is unreasonable.