A remarkable show of public opposition this week threw a wrench into the legislative gears in Washington, at least for now.
The Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act in the Senate were moving along toward passage until campaigns against them, boosted by blackouts by Wikipedia, Reddit and some other websites, grew so strong that lawmakers stopped to reconsider. A dozen members who had co-sponsored SOPA or PIPA pulled their names off the bills. Each piece of legislation seems likely to undergo a significant rewrite before it surfaces again.
Which interest should take precedent when fighting online piracy?
Total Voters: 308
When one or the other does re-emerge, however, the same basic tension — between the rights of digital companies and their users to operate freely on the Internet, and the intellectual property (IP) rights of content creators who see online pirates stealing their work and profiting off it, while sometimes harming consumers — will remain.
On one side, you have citizens and companies, with reason, warning against potentially censoring the Web. The less done here by Washington (and other governments), the better the Internet will be for all of us. On the other, the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8 ) specifically instructs the Congress: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” That’s a very solid basis for protecting the kind of intellectual property rights now being infringed upon.
Irrespective of the particular flaws of SOPA and PIPA, any piece of legislation is unlikely to strike a precisely equal balance between these two legitimate interests. So, in general, which of these interests ought to take precedence?
That’s this week’s Poll Position question. Answer in the nearby poll and in the comments thread below.
– By Kyle Wingfield