Archive - Jan 14, 2012
If you follow legal issues, you may have run across the acronym, SLAPP. SLAPP is an abbreviation of 'Strategic lawsuit against public participation'. Wikipedia describes them as lawsuits that are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. If you have lots of money, you can tie up someone with little money in court and effectively shutdown their criticism or creativity.
To address this, people have sought anti-SLAPP legislation to balance the right of access to the courts and to justice.
What does this have to do with SOPA? SOPA , the Stop Online Privacy Act, and the related bill, PIPA, the Protect IP Act for copyright and other intellectual property holders to fight online privacy. Ideally, this makes a lot of sense. Article 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power "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;"
This brings up the first issue with SOPA. Will it really promote the progress of science and useful arts? One of the concerns with SOPA is that it benefits large corporate entities at the expense of individual creators. When an individual creates a new work of art, making fair use of existing art, will that individual have the same opportunity to shares and profit from their art as large corporations?
If SOPA/PIPA passes, those chances are likely to be diminished. The actions that could be taken against creators of derivative art are draconian and appear to provide major studios a new avenue to SLAPP creative individuals.
So, perhaps in the spirit of the Magna Carta, "To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice", SOPA should be modified to make it a little closer to a level playing field. Perhaps, a penalty for falsely claiming copyright infringement should meet the same punishment as the penalty for infringing on a copyright. If Sony falsely accuses someone of infringing on a copyright, Sony's access to the Web should be blocked. No more Sony websites. If Time Warner falsely accuses someone of infringing on a copyright, they should be banned from selling any of their material. No more Time Warner on iTunes.
So, particularly to any Senators that have spent their careers fighting for consumer rights and for due process, they need to either defeat PIPA or make sure that it is amended so that the ideals of the Constitution and the Magna Carta are properly upheld and that large corporations are not given even more unfair advantages over individuals.