The White House finally responds to anti-SOPA petition
January 14, 2012
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I previously encouraged readers of one of my previous posts to sign a petition on the White House’s “We the People” site that someone had set up opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and similar legislation. After the petition got the most signatures on the site, surpassing even marijuana-related petitions, the White House…sat on it for a bit. But today, they finally released a response.
I encourage reading the response yourself and forming your own opinion, but a few observations might be noted:
- The response does not explicitly come out against SOPA and similar legislation. It’s clear throughout the response that the White House thinks online piracy is a serious problem that the federal government should be working harder to stop. Now I’m someone who believes, crazily enough, that SOPA is there to fix a problem that neither can nor should be fixed. Despite widespread piracy, successful artists and entertainers still make the easiest money, and they get plenty rich doing it. It should go to show how easy it is by the fact that many content-providers, especially online, are in fact creating content for free because they enjoy it (ahem). Say what you will about bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. – they all work hard for their money. Entertainers are the only ones among us that get to play for money. Why do they need to make more than they make now? Moreover, those of us in the Napster generation understand that trying to stamp out online piracy is as futile as trying to stamp out the drug trade. It’s just not going to happen, there are a million ways of doing this other than how its being done now. That being said, the above is still seen as an “extreme” position by the corporate-owned media (though not among the people), so it’s not surprising that the White House would take a different position (although this poll shows 99+% opposition to SOPA – the 19 supporters being well within the margin of error).
- But the White House does seem to be opposed to some overbearing measures, demanding “strong due process” and perhaps most significantly, that the law “must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law.” I take this as a demand that sites within US jurisdiction, (who can be sued in civil court) be excluded from the law’s reach. However, it’s not clear if that’s what they mean. In addition, the response opposes “overly broad private rights of action” against intermediaries, and tampering with the domain name system in a manner that compromises security.
- The response does not deal with shared-content sites like Youtube and Wikipedia. This is surprising because the effect on such sites was one of the most controversial parts of the bill. I would have expected the White House to have explicitly demanded that such sites be excluded from the bill’s reach, but I guess not.
- The White House invites petitioners to share their views. The White House took an encouraging step in inviting the petition creator and a random sample of signers to a conference call to discuss the petition. This is important because internet users (the 99% who oppose SOPA) don’t have any other lobbying organization or way to reach the White House directly. The Obama Administration deserves at least some credit for coming up with an innovative way to solve this problem. However, I have to wonder whether this will be taken seriously, my experience with doing things by phone is that they get rather impersonal.