So if you’ve been holding your breath, hoping that the amendment process might make SOPA a little less horrifying, you should probably stop because you’re going to suffocate. About two dozen amendments were slogged through yesterday during a grueling 11.5 hour session, with most of the important SOPA-limiting ones being thrown in the trash. Some amendments are passing, though. Mostly ones that make SOPA even more of a terrifying monster, like an amendment that passed only a few hours ago granting ISPs the same protection whether they block a specific piece of infringing content or just go the lazy route and nuke the whole site regardless of what a court order may specify. Which one do you think they’re going to do more often?
It’s not like the amendment didn’t have its detractors. I have to give props to California’s Representative Zoe Lofgren for making a valiant stand against the amendment, even if it didn’t work. The argument Lofgren put forth, and the one that is pretty much as clear as day, is that giving ISPs this broad protection encourages them to be lazy and overzealous. Blocking specific content is going to require ISPs to like, actually go there and look at stuff and separate infringing content from legitimate content. They aren’t going to want to do that; it takes time and manpower and all that jazz. That’s why you offer them more protection as an incentive to get in there and do it the hard-but-right way.
But, no; the amendment passed which means that from the ISP perspective, they get the same amount of liability protection from selectively blocking infringing content or just jamming their hand down on the button and shutting down the whole site. The only incentive they have not to nuke the site now is the lure of avoiding censorship and being the good guy. I wish I could believe they might find that enticing. Lofgren raised an interesting point that perhaps instead of being permitted to block entire sites, perhaps ISPs should be prohibited from blocking entire sites. After all, isn’t it a little bit absurd to be putting ISPs in a position to make judgement calls when there is a court order involved? Needless to say, it all fell on deaf ears.
You can watch the hearings streaming at Keep The Web Open and if you have the time and think you can stomach it, I’d recommend it.
Edit: The SOPA mark-up has now adjourned until the next practicable date.
- Yesterday, the cool thing to do at the SOPA hearings was to say “nerd” a lot
- Wikipedia was considering a blackout to protest SOPA
- Louis CK just had great success releasing his content in an absurdly open format