Anyone familiar with the Internet is probably also quite aware of the many sites that offer illegal streaming or downloading of copyrighted music, movies, TV shows and other works. A large portion of the Internet is dedicated to the sharing of copyrighted files, which has affected the creative industry for years. The need for legal action is clear, but the way the government is attacking the problem is misguided.
Two recent bills, the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced in May and October, respectively, are attempting to combat the spread of copyrighted material through online vehicles.
The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly passed PROTECT IP, which stands for “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property,” but Senator Ron Wyden then put it on hold.
Where this bill, and others similar to it, fail is in their attempt to use Internet service providers, search engines, Internet advertisers and financial companies to shut down infringing websites rather than government law enforcement.
These bills require Google to block search access to file sharing sites and force Suddenlink to cancel service to illegal downloaders.
Policing the Internet is not the job of corporations. It is the job of our government. We don’t expect Ford to hand out speeding tickets, so we shouldn’t expect any more of ISPs. They are not responsible for the actions of people who use their services or products.
These laws stifle the market place of ideas in that they leave little room for comment, criticism, satire and fair use situations.
Copyrighted materials are easily accessible on the Internet and often misused, but limiting access to them impedes the free exchange of ideas.
While laws regarding copyright on the Internet are needed, the government must refocus their bills.
Instead of forcing businesses to police copyright offenders on the Internet, the government should simply focus on establishing laws that can protect creative content and enforcing them federally.