By now, many, if not most, Americans have heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It is a proposed piece of legislation that would “expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.” In truth, this law, in its latest form threatens your right to free speech, effectively censors the internet, and gives more intrusive authority to an already frighteningly powerful federal government.
On January 18, 2012, many websites, most notably the English version of Wikipedia and about 7,000 enacted service blackouts to raise awareness of the issue. You probably remember it. On January 20, 2012, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Smith postponed plans to draft the bill, stating that, “The committee remains committed to finding a solution to the problem of online piracy that protects American intellectual property and innovation … The House Judiciary Committee will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
While this was welcome news, there are two reasons that it is too early for celebration. First, you can be sure we haven’t seen the last of SOPA, or its type of legislative ilk. Second, and much more troubling, there is the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Disguised as a trade agreement, the legality of which is extremely debatable, this international agreement ultimately results in the invasion of your privacy in a myriad of troubling ways.
ACTA effectively gives the federal government permission to be Big Brother. ACTA removes “legal safeguards that protect Internet Service Providers from liability for the actions of their subscribers.” What this means is that your internet service provider would have no choice but to continually monitor your internet activity, violating your privacy, on suspicion that you may do something that a trademark or copyright holder feels infringes upon their potential profits. More than forcing your ISP to monitor you, it would actually facilitate suspicious copyright holders gaining access to records of your activity. Further, ACTA allows law enforcement to seize and destroy your personal property on the mere suspicion that the contents might be used for commercial copyright infringement, or at the request of a “rights holder.” Anyone else see a problem with this?
So who are these rights holders? The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) comes to mind. Not to break on a tangent here, but the Obama administration has said that it refuses to make public the extremely secret happenings concerning ACTA on the grounds that it presents a “national security” concern. However, it is known that the MPAA has attended meetings and negotiations concerning ACTA. Perhaps I am speaking from a place of deep ignorance here, but since WHEN did the MPAA have ANYTHING to do with matters of national security? This is the same MPAA that very publicly and plainly threatened the President and Congress with discontinued financial contributions after SOPA got shot down. So…does one and one equal three, or is there something much more obvious going on here? Wake up.
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