White House has problems with anti-piracy bills


Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives are in full-fledged wrangling mode over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the Online Protection and Digital ENforcement Act (OPEN). The battle pits Hollywood in conflict with Silicon Valley in a struggle in which almost the entire internet-using public has a vested interest. The White House came out strongly in favor of an approach that leaves the internet as free and open as possible.

The White House issued a statement to citizens concerned enough to sign a petition on the matter. It said, “While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

The White House signaled that it wants remedies to combat piracy use a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver. “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small. Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected. To minimize this risk, new legislation must be narrowly targeted only at sites beyond the reach of current U.S. law, cover activity clearly prohibited under existing U.S. laws, and be effectively tailored, with strong due process and focused on criminal activity. Any provision covering Internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing.”

The full message can be read here.

RBR-TVBR observation: When the White House weighs in on pending legislation, think of it as a controversial football play that goes upstairs for instant replay review. In the football game, the process is biased in favor of the call made on the field, and in a legislative struggle, the call is biased in favor of the position the White House is willing to sign off on. So score one for the foes of SOPA-as-written.