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Lamar Smith’s fight against internet freedom could lead to Google blackout

January 9, 2012

What Congressman Lamar Smith’s public relations staffer posts on his Facebook page has become pretty much irrelevant of late. Whether the topic is jobs, notice of a “tele-town hall,” or an update on a balanced budget amendment, Smith’s online “friends” appear ready to dog the man off the very edges of the innerwebs.

The issue? Smith’s authoring of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). On the one hand, detractors have him finally over the 5,000 Facebook “likes” hump. On the other hand, these folks are out for blood.

Writes Bryan Wilson, in one of the more eloquent posts on his wall:

Congratulations Congressman Smith, you have a provided a valuable example for the rest of the US Federal government by becoming possibly the first Congressmen to ruin his career by supporting a form of internet censorship. You should probably check with your political staff on this but they will probably be looking for more steady work. Your supporters might be strong but the largest opposing companies who rely on the internet have a combined revenue of over $50 billion as of this last year. So good luck.

 

SOPA would enable the U.S. Department of Justice to seek court orders against websites operating outside U.S. jurisdiction that are accused copyright infringement. And while the likes of the Motion Picture Association (which already forces you to watch all those poorly executed thievery clips at the front of legally purchased DVDs) supports H.R. 3261, there are forces lining up against it for the variety of spin-off issues it represents.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the bill would not only give the government more power to censor, but would create havoc in the world of online innovation (check this letter from variety of prominent voices opposing it) and negatively impact other nations’ handling of internet freedoms.

Another concise argument is over at the Stanford Law Review:

Two bills now pending in Congress—the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 (Protect IP) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House—represent the latest legislative attempts to address a serious global problem: large-scale online copyright and trademark infringement. Although the bills differ in certain respects, they share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet’s extraordinary growth, and for free expression.

 

While Smith writes off opposition to a “vocal minority,” those titans of the internet’s very architecture cited by Wilson above are organizing for a “nuclear option” to fight him. That is: they’re talking about shutting down Google.

Wrote Time’s Techland last week:

Can you imagine a world without Google or Facebook? If plans to protest the potential passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) come to fruition, you won’t need to; those sites, along with many other well-known online destinations, will go temporarily offline as a taste of what we could expect from a post-SOPA Internet.

Companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, Yahoo! and Wikipedia are said to be discussing a coordinated blackout of services to demonstrate the potential effect SOPA would have on the Internet, something already being called a “nuclear option” of protesting. The rumors surrounding the potential blackout were only strengthened by Markham Erickson, executive director of trade association NetCoalition, who told FoxNews that “a number of companies have had discussions about [blacking out services]” last week.

 

What sort of internet do you want?

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