Why Any Future Anti-Piracy Legislation Must Not Regulate Search Engines
Having lost backing and support, two anti-piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA are currently on the shelves. However, one thing is certain. Entertainment lobbyists and lawmakers won't walk away from the flourishing worldwide piracy activity without attempting to legally address it.
There are numerous opinions and debates about why these bills were potentially dangerous to free speech, but what I think many people don't understand is that this isn't primarily a free speech issue. The end result of legislation like this would absolutely be a blow to free speech, but the main driver behind it would not be the legislation itself, but the economic impact that the legislation would have on certain internet entities.
Just Follow the Money Trail
Enforcing the law costs someone money. The big issue surrounding the SOPA bill in particular was who was being forced to pay for policing the internet for copyright violations. While this article is not an exhaustive explanation as to why internet giants like Google, Reddit, and Wikipedia were opposed to the legislation, it certainly will shed some light on why so much frenzy and hype surrounded this particular piece of legislature.
The bill included provisions for the ability to request court orders to force certain entities on the internet to block access to an/or starve rogue sites, including:
- Advertising networks would be banned from serving the sites
- Search engines would be forced to remove entire domains from their indexes
- Internet service providers would be required to block access to the sites
- Payment facilities would not be allowed to facilitate money transactions for these sites
While companies operating in the United States are already banned from serving up pirated content to consumers, these provisions will help fight against foreign websites that are not bound by the same laws.
At first glance, one would say (as the entertainment industry is saying) that this is fair. Legitimate businesses in the United States can lose their licenses and even be prosecuted if they sell stolen goods. Why shouldn't these entities be held to the same standards?
The real problem that arises, however, is an issue of trust among all of the various entities on the internet who are conducting business. People are taking risks every day to engage commercially on the internet. If they know that their livelihood can immediately be cut off with the stroke of a pen on a court order, individuals and corporations would be far less likely to take that risk. Even further, though, is the impact it will have on new online innovation.Continued on the next page