Is the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, H.R. 3261 (SOPA) a “massive piece of job-killing Internet regulation,” as our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation claim?
According to the sponsor of the proposal, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), there is an urgent need to protect American innovators from foreign theft via the Internet.
Rogue websites that steal and sell American innovations have operated with impunity. The online thieves who run these foreign websites are out of the reach of U.S. law enforcement agencies and profit from selling pirated goods without any legal consequences. According to estimates, IP theft costs the U.S. economy more than $100 billion annually and results in the loss of thousands of American jobs.
The Stop Online Piracy Act helps stop the flow of revenue to rogue websites and ensures that the profits from American innovations go to American innovators. The bill prevents online thieves from selling counterfeit goods in the U.S., expands international protections for intellectual property, and protects American consumers from dangerous counterfeit products.
American IP industries provide 19 million high-paying jobs to the U.S. economy and account for more than 60% of U.S. exports. It’s time to stop online piracy and start protecting American jobs and innovations.
EFF makes some potentially useful points about the drafting of the bill. In lawmaking, as a general matter, the first draft of a bill sometimes uses language that is perhaps overly broad. Sometimes consequences for reckless, negligent or malicious enforcement, litigation or prosecution should be added to ensure fairness. To the extent that these are legitimate issues, they are normally resolved during a properly-functioning legislative process.
Presumably we can all agree that theft is bad, and that we would all like to prevent theft to the extent possible. Opponents such as EFF can provide a valuable service by making specific recommendations; unfortunately, EFF is not playing ball. “This bill cannot be fixed,” according to EFF, “it must be killed.”
With all due respect to EFF, the numbers cited by Chairman Smith are staggering. Foreigners are robbing American innovators blind. And their losses are ultimately our losses. It is time for us to come together and search for new approaches for combating intellectual property theft.
No one wants to strangle “Twitter, Tumblr, and the next innovative social network, cloud computing, or web hosting service that some smart kid is designing in her garage right now,” to use EFF’s colorful example. But let’s be real, innovation is about creating, not stealing. Pirated content is not primarily responsible for the success of Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, iTunes or YouTube. Although piracy may provide some limited help for imitators, it is not necessary for creators, and it does not promote innovation.
So, if there is a better approach for combating foreign piracy than SOPA, let’s hear it.