Poll Position: Whose interests to guard in SOPA/PIPA debate?

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?

  • Preserving freedom on the Internet (276 Votes)
  • Protecting intellectual property rights (19 Votes)
  • Piracy? I thought PIPA was the sister of an English princess (13 Votes)

Total Voters: 308

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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

63 comments Add your comment

Cal Mackay

January 20th, 2012
5:25 am

As someone that actually works online and as a person with copyrighted work a lot of people think I should support SOPA and PIPA but it’s actually the opposite. I oppose the acts viciously, so much my email accounts never stop because I am constantly emailing elected officials, companies that support the bills and just posting everywhere and anywhere I can.
The fact of the matter is that pirating media doesn’t take that much away from businesses, maybe a tenth of their maximum income at most and for a lot of them that’s a couple of million out of hundreds of million. Also speaking as someone that is a fervent computer nerd and businessman these companies are throwing tantrums because they aren’t getting their own way and who are they running to? Papa government that’s who. The governments need to step up right now and stop with the stupidity they’ve been letting slip, they have to give a firm hand to these companies and tell them to sit in the corner and think about what they’re doing because what they’re doing is killing the internet, no more than the big kid that pushed you over in the playground and I don’t know a single parent that would tolerate a bully for a child.
Those big companies need to come into the future, it’s all about free media and information sharing now and when they learn to accept that then we can get past this stupidity and they can concentrate on things that will actually help the world instead of themselves. Music, movies, books and games are great and all and people should be paid for their efforts but not at the expense of the internet, freedom and the future. Whatever happened to “the customer is always right”?


January 20th, 2012
5:29 am

What?? The US is banning the internet? We don’t wanna be North Koreans of Chinese right? Preserve the internet!


January 20th, 2012
6:11 am

Anyone who makes their living writing or composing music, or performing music has a right to be paid for their work. The thing that’s scary about our government is that they are bought and paid for by corporations. Not only do our”representatives” make laws that are not in our best interest, but they make laws without knowing jack about the industry they are trying to regulate. They have no concept of the impact, but they have to earn their paychecks.

Ayn Rant

January 20th, 2012
6:13 am

Distended, often frivolous, copyrights and patents are major obstacles to free enterprise. I see no need for oppressive legislation to defend copyrights and patents. Let the holders defend their “property” in the usual way: hire a lawyer and sue the infringers!


January 20th, 2012
6:49 am

Cal Mackay seems to be saying that stealing is ok as long as the victim loses only 10% of his income.

[...] We already have copyright laws.ZDNet (blog)SOPA: Why is the internet world against it?Times of IndiaPoll Position: Whose interests to guard in SOPA/PIPA debate?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Constructaquote -Techdirt -News24all 9,771 news [...]


January 20th, 2012
7:30 am

Keep your hands off my bits.


January 20th, 2012
7:33 am

Most of the anti-SOPA crowd is just scared they’ll finally have to (horror of horrors) pay for stuff they’ve been stealing for years.


January 20th, 2012
7:43 am

These are just flawed bills from the corporatists… the same ones who keep extending the copyright expiration dates so that companies like Disney don’t have to lose control of Mickey Mouse and invent a new character to take his place.


January 20th, 2012
7:49 am

The crux of the issue is the responsibility. As I understand it, the bills as written would hold the website, say Wikipedia, responsible to insure that no copyrights were infringed on their site. Stop and think about that for a second. How the heck is Wikipedia going to police 12 million plus user posted articles across 10 languages. Impossible! Same issue for Facebook 600 million users and the law would expect them to make sure no one posted copyrighted material. The penalty…the site is shut down.

This has obviously not be thought out and is a prime example of pandering to those “corporate people” who can now make unlimited donations to one’s PAC.

Don't Tread

January 20th, 2012
8:05 am

The problem with this bill is that it leaves too much room for interpretation and we know lawyers can twist anything around to suit their purpose. How would you like it if a blogger posted some text they found on another site without quoting the source (therefore, you wouldn’t know it was copied from anywhere else) and the owner of that site sued you for copyright infringement?

While I support protection of intellectual property, the person doing the infringing should be the one punished, not the site owner.


January 20th, 2012
8:10 am

Put me down with the “protecting intellectual property rights” crowd (only 5 of us so far). If there are bugs to be worked out of the bill so that it doesn’t overreach, fine. Otherwise, it’s not right to steal other people’s labor from them.


January 20th, 2012
8:17 am

Good point(s) Don’t Tread. And your closing statement while likely unenforceable w/o other government intervention to make the individual making the post transparent, makes the most sense to me. But then like a supporter of showing of proof of citizenship before being allowed to vote, I see no problem to being asked to register my dcb or whatever other alias I wan’t to use before being allowed to post. Infringement of civil liberties or whatever – phooey.


January 20th, 2012
8:31 am

I agree with the intent — preventing the theft of intellectual property or copyrighted materials, but the proposed approach is absolutely ham-handed. Get some tech experts to revamp the bill so it is focused on the people that willfully post or download the materials, not the people who create the technology.


January 20th, 2012
8:33 am

Sorry stealing is not freedom of speech and piracy does have a large cost.
I love people who act like they are freedom fighters and they are no better than a shoplifter at walmart. Youre not an activist because you dont want to pay for photoshop or the next episode of Dexter. Also the its too expensive argument when it can be had for 99 cents on itunes but they trade it anyway.
Be honest and say i like taking stuff with little chance of getting caught. At least it would be real than all this nonsense.


January 20th, 2012
8:34 am

The bill has nothing to do with creating technology or effecting those people. Its about stealing and how to stop it.

JF McNamara

January 20th, 2012
8:45 am

Its not about the stealing. I think all parties on both side understand and acknowledge that people are stealing. Its the enforcement that is the real problem. If they came up with a fair process, I think everyone would support SOPA.

Web sites could be shut down with little or no warning. Wikipedia and YouTube could be shut down because someone posted copyrighted content and neither company would even be warned.

“The bill allows for the issuance of temporary restraining orders against offending sites and those can be filed by a judge hearing only ONE SIDE of the case. And you know, there are protections in the federal rule to prevent this from being too extreme, but it’s quite possible that sites would go offline without a lot of warning.”

Politi Cal

January 20th, 2012
8:50 am

Solving problems like this is why we send the best and the brightest to Washington right?

that's goofy

January 20th, 2012
8:55 am

If copyrighted material is stolen we have a legal system in place. Check Youtube and you will find videos pulled because of copyright.

We don’t need more legislation.


January 20th, 2012
9:05 am

Most of the anti-SOPA crowd is just scared they’ll finally have to (horror of horrors) pay for stuff they’ve been stealing for years.

This is one of the most asinine comments I’ve read in a long time.

You and others like you clearly cannot see the “forest for the trees.”

When one opens the the door for our government to control the internet, the long term consequences could be devastating.

I would easily anticipate internet censorship and lawmakers influencing the kind of information you are able to access.

Do you really want to give the keys to the internet to our government? Are you so naive as to think that government officials, quite possibly under corporate influence, will be impartial and just?

None so blind as those who cannot see.


January 20th, 2012
9:12 am

The problem is that the level of piracy is not anywhere near as high as the studios are trying to make it sound. They keep saying that 19 million jobs are effected and 19 billion dollars of revenues but are unwilling to show anything to back up those figures.

Additionally, they have show repeatedly that they want total control. Why else would they be sending take down notices for parents video taping their kids dancing to a song being played? Let’s face it, they never have like fair-use, and they have been able to “grease the wheels” of government enough to change copyright protection to last a lot longer than necessary. The SOPA/PIPA just adds yet another way to bypass the legal system so they can get their way because they don’t want to have to come out in the light and be observed going after anyone they want.

Their complaints over piracy remind of what happened when cassettes and then video tapes came out. The music and movie companies all screamed that they were being stolen because people would record an album or movie and give it to their friends. Well, sure, that may have happened on a small scale, but when they finally started using the same technology, they were able to make even more money. This is just more of the same. The dinosaurs that operate these companies don’t know how to use the technology so they want to get the Congress (which most also don’t know how to use this technology) to legislate the technology backwards rather than biting the bullet and learning how to use it.

On a side note, it was funny when it was found that the congressional backers of these bills were actually using pirated music and pictures with no acknowledgment. Wonder if they realize they would have been bit by this same law?


January 20th, 2012
9:16 am

The funny thing is this will NOT stop piracy at all. Even before shared media websites such as the now closed MEDIAFIRE people were sharing music and videos. through chatrooms. It would do nothing in stoping piracy instead it would just stop the flow for information that is what the web is based on. This entire bill is just coproation wanting MORE money and many polticians who support the bills receives funding from the group coughSchumercoughGillibrandcough. I think the entire bill is just wrong and would not come close to accomplishing what it qoute-unqoute said to do. Money could be spent else where ie education and medicine considering how many hospital needed to file for bankruptcy.


January 20th, 2012
9:24 am

My view: Intellectual property should be protected just like real peoperty. However, as I understand it, these bills create another government agency with vast powers but no oversight or means of redress for abuses of that power. I would probably support some sort of law that would make it easier to protect intellectual property in the digital age that also had some meaningful oversite to prevent abuse.


January 20th, 2012
9:26 am

Change of subject:

“Richmond Times-Dispatch 1/20/2012
(Virginia) Gov. Bob McDonnell this morning endorsed Mitt Romney’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination, calling him a “results-oriented conservative” who can appeal to Democrats and independents.

“My message will be if you want to win the race in November, vote for Mitt Romney,” McDonnell said. “He can win Democrats and independents to our cause.” ”
McDonnell is also head of the Republicans Governors Conference. He will campaign for Romney today and tomorrow in South Carolina.


January 20th, 2012
9:28 am

This is a horrid bill being pushed by Chris Dodd at the MPAA. He has flat out lied about this bill to anyone who will listen. Content doesn’t care about piracy. In fact there is no credible study to show its even a problem in the first place. This is about CONTROL. Where you watch, how you watch, and how much you pay to watch. They have the DMCA which is abused constantly…Warner issues take downs for things they dont even look at. With SOPA/PIPA you have very little recourse and NO adversarial hearing. That BOTH our Senators in GA support this blows my mind

Junior Samples

January 20th, 2012
9:30 am

It’s clearly obvious they haven’t thought this through. Even the author of the bill, Lamar Smith, didn’t realize his own website contained copyrighted material.

Time to stop and rewrite this bill.


January 20th, 2012
9:31 am

@ Kura
cough cough ChamblisIssaacson


January 20th, 2012
9:34 am

Here is the real reason the US Government and its politicians want to censor what is posted on sites like YouTube:


Congressman Howard Berman’s Chief of Staff berates and curses at police officer. Then calls in favor and has traffic citation disappear.

If SOPA/PIPA is enacted neither you or the almost 1000 viewers could have or would have seen this video about GOVERMENT MISUSE OF POWER, POLITICAL FAVORITISM AND BLATANT CORRUPTION. Let’s stop these self serving selfish idiots in their tracks.


January 20th, 2012
10:00 am

In response to SOPA (PIPA) http://www.made-downloads.com will be switching names to http://www.made-downloads.org . Please stop the act before it is too late, and vote against it!


January 20th, 2012
10:01 am

Hmmm… Does Cox (owner of AJC) support this bill?

Kyle Wingfield

January 20th, 2012
10:03 am

ScottNATL @ 10:01: I haven’t the faintest idea, because no one’s said anything about it to me one way or the other. Fwiw, I can imagine arguments on both sides of the issue for a company like Cox and expect the yes/no would come down to the details of the bill(s).


January 20th, 2012
10:08 am

Something most people overlook is the fact that the 10% of “stolen” material is taken by people who would otherwise not buy the product. This in effect is nothing but advertising for the owner of the material. For instance, what if I had downloaded a movie that I wouldn’t have purchased for 10 dollars off the shelf, found out it was good and told my friends about it. Now my friends no longer have to worry about the risk of buying a crappy movie and they all go buy it knowing it will be good. If it weren’t for that initial download and advertisement the owner of that material would not have had any of those sales. Even if 10% of a product is stolen there is a compounding affect that leads to that 90% being larger than the 100% would be in your “perfect” world.


January 20th, 2012
10:14 am

Question: Would the actions of SOPA/PIPA supporters violate the terms of service of sites such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc? If so, a possible solution could be to simply suspend/delete all of their accounts. Given the financial (and, therefore legal) muscle that these sites have, and any given political figure’s dependence upon the internet for the dissemination of information, it could be an effective demonstration of possible effects on the average user. Such a demonstration would be difficult to ignore. Legally, I am certain that the battalions of lawyers employed by tech companies could find a legal loophole to justify such an action, and a well worded public statement would round out a fairly airtight defense, consolidate support, and, draw attention to the issue at large.

If the shoe were on the other foot, I doubt that the supporters of SOPA/PIPA would hesitate to do the same to “win”.


January 20th, 2012
10:36 am

Part of the problem here I think is that government has become so large and complex. Consequently, legislation is ever more complex, and people have to make decisions on it before they have had a chance to fully digest it and decide what they think about the outcomes. Any bill that is more than some maximum length (say 3 to 5 pages) would have a six month moretorum on comments and then another relatively lengthly review/consideration period before any vote.


January 20th, 2012
10:46 am

If an infringement is bad enough the copyright owner will sue the infringer just like always. Not sure why the messenger should be sued unless the messenger was complicit or was found to knowingly have aided the infringer. No need for this.


January 20th, 2012
10:48 am

The Globalist Elite co-opt’d fedgov has long sought control of/over the internet. The Globalists know they’re agenda & mininon of puppets (”mainstream” media, “elected” officials, etc.) are exposed on the net, and they want that ceased (asap). They’ll look for any means of accomplishing that, but I suspect it might be via (another) false flag “attack”…followed by martial law.

Somewhere over there

January 20th, 2012
10:52 am

Obama gave the order to do this.Not sure why libs aren’t angry at him. I guess it’s all Bush’s fault.


January 20th, 2012
10:52 am

“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.” – the key words there are *limited Times*. US copyright now protects works going back to 1923, and will almost certainly extend copyright in perpetuity from that date, thanks to one very well-heeled mouse.


January 20th, 2012
11:09 am

The legal system in place is only good for the US & Europe. A copyright owner has little or no recourse against someone from Russia, China, South America, Israel (the list is endless) that takes your property and offers it for download. These sites need to be shut down, pronto and unceremoniously. It’s not just big movie studios and record companies that are being hurt by this. Sure, they can weather a 10% loss (though they shouldn’t have to), but indie artists, labels & publishers are being crippled by this kind of piracy. Why do you think that today’s music sucks so badly? Indie labels (the lifeblood of the music business) are dropping like flies, and the ones that survive can’t afford to do new artist development. Our copyright laws state that our government is BOUND to protect the rights of copyright holders. THAT is governments job…. to protect our rights.
Screw Wikipedia and YouTube. We can live without them and did so in this country just fine for 200 years. But American music is a real treasure that will, hopefully, be around long after the internet is just a faded memory. Free music and movies are NOT a first amendment right. If you want to know about a record or movie before you buy it, go to the library (I’d venture to guess that most of the nay sayers have never been there) or rent the movie, check out the record via legal streaming. Bottom line, I have a right to expect my government to protect my rights. I shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer.


January 20th, 2012
11:26 am

Proposed legislation goes way to far. Punish the people that publish and put on line, but don’t punish the owner’s of the sites. They can’t screen everything that is put up online.


January 20th, 2012
11:32 am

These bills are using the excuse of fighting piracy to provide the government the authority to shut down web sites without due process at will (sounds a lot like the new justice system in america). Piracy may be a problem, but these bills go too far. They are just another tool of oppression of the masses on behalf of the government’s friends in big business.

Corporatism is what runs america today. The democrats support it, the republicans support it, but only Ron Paul and a handful of other elected officials have the courage to speak out against it and fight it. One need only look at the major contributors to Romney’s campaign and Obama’s campaign to see where their allegiances will lie (Goldman Sachs, Chase, Time Warner, etc.)

Take back america – Ron Paul 2012.


January 20th, 2012
11:38 am

It’s actually very simple. Whichever group has the most money to give to the politicians will win.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

January 20th, 2012
11:39 am

The SOPA protesters are basement-dwellers worried they might not be able to steal music, movies, and software any longer. They are parasites and criminals, and mostly vote Democrat.


January 20th, 2012
11:40 am

Where are willards tax returns?

That is the headline of the day.

Man up willard and post them coward.

willard is to weak to be President.


January 20th, 2012
11:41 am

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

January 20th, 2012
11:45 am

Maybe Willard’s tax returns are with Obozo’s college transcripts.


January 20th, 2012
11:48 am

lil bar,

After all the birther crap you post that crap.

You are pathetic.

BTW, if you want this corrupt congress to get their hands on the internet, you are beyond pathetic.


January 20th, 2012
11:57 am

You got the family values coward newt vs the 1 % candidate hiding tax returns.

You cons need a public flogging and we will do it on this blog.

Who is your master cons?


January 20th, 2012
12:01 pm

Preserve the internet! Believe it or not, the cost to advertise an artist’s, author, or any other piece that falls in the category of IP, is offset by that getting out to the public GLOBALLY. This I know for a fact. I had a friend a few years ago who had one of the most God-Awful rock bands I had ever heard put their music on My Space (I told you it was years ago…) and within 2 weeks that God-Awful song was freely downloaded and downloaded so much that it became a major hit in South Africa. I don’t know about you supporters of SOPA and PIPA, but I wouldn’t mind being a millionaire ANYWHERE. Thanks to the Internet. Now apply that to bloggers, authors, and others who do what they do. Copyright is to protect the artists from theft, yet they benefit immensely from who finds their craft appealing. I hear a song from a particular artist and I am encouraged to either buy the music or (horrors) go to their concert performance. How about focusing on Ticketmaster for those exorbitant “fees” they charge??!!

Just sayin’…..


January 20th, 2012
12:21 pm