• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: An Internet Blackout Over SOPA and PIPA

    As of midnight, Wikipedia is shut down for 24 hours, and hundreds of other popular websites have gone dark right along with it. They are standing together in protest of two controversial pieces of legislation that threaten Internet security and undermine the freedom of speech all in an effort to crack down on online “piracy” — the illegal distribution of copyrighted material.

    Hollywood, the music industry, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have gone to bat on behalf of the proposed laws on the grounds that they will help protect valuable copyrighted property. And while the goal is laudable, the ends don’t justify the means. The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act have far-reaching consequences for the Internet’s infrastructure, individual liberties, and innovation in the digital age.

    Under the laws, upon a court order, third-party companies and websites would be forced to crack down on rogue websites — and even ones that unwittingly host or link to material that may violate copyrights or trademarks, whether or not they have knowledge of the violation. Internet service providers would be required to block Internet addresses of offending sites — a measure that Internet engineers warn could threaten Internet security. Search engines would be prohibited from including pirate sites in search results, a requirement that goes well beyond current law and may, in fact, violate the First Amendment. Heritage’s James Gattuso and Paul Rosenzweig explain ramifications:

    [L]imits on speech here are almost certain to be extended to other cases. If links to pirate sites are banned, why not links to sites disseminating national security secrets? Or sites “facilitating” violence by propagating extreme political positions? Moreover, other countries that have pursued content controls of their own, such as China, may be encouraged by steps in the U.S. to limit content.

    It is concerns like these that have caused a firestorm in the online world, leading Wikipedia to declare that the laws “would be devastating to the free and open web” and prompting Google to campaign against the laws on its highly trafficked search engine. Meanwhile, PC Magazine reports that co-founders of top tech firms like Twitter, Google, Yahoo, and eBay wrote an open letter opposing the laws, arguing that they would undermine the “regulatory climate that promotes entrepreneurship, innovation, the creation of content and free expression online.”

    Here’s why: Under the laws, websites like Facebook, with its hundreds of millions of users, or YouTube, where 48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, would now be accountable for all content posted on their sites. As a result, websites would be discouraged from engaging in speech or from providing a forum where others can do the same. That, in turn, will stifle innovation–the lifeblood of the economy. One study showed that among 200 venture capitalists and angel investors, almost all would stop funding digital media intermediaries if these laws are enacted.

    Setting aside the burden the laws would impose on the freedom of speech and innovation, they don’t even make practical sense. Trying to block content online is tantamount to blocking the Mississippi River with a two-by-four. It can’t be done. Countries like Iran routinely censor content, yet information still flows through–oftentimes with the help of the United States. This attempt to crack down on pirated material is a futile effort by industries that are suffering at the hands of a technology that has surpassed it, much like when Hollywood was up in arms over VCRs in the 1980s and when the music industry threw a fit over MP3 players in the late 1990s.

    The Internet is the greatest engine for free speech and innovation ever known to humankind. Certainly its power can be used for good as well as bad, but censoring content, jeopardizing the security of the Internet, and stifling innovation is not the answer for protecting intellectual property rights.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    73 Responses to Morning Bell: An Internet Blackout Over SOPA and PIPA

    1. Forest Wilson says:

      If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. ~Ronald Reagan Let the subsidizes begin! I am so sick and tired of the reach of the Federal Government – I wish they would stop threatening us they are going to shut down, and just shut down. Throw ALL the bums out! Forest Wilson.

    2. Roger White says:

      Will enough EVER be ENOUGH?!

    3. Bruce MacCurrach says:

      And, as of today Borack Obama leads the forcasted current results of the November Presidential Election. God help our children and Grandchildren. Some of my friends seem to want credit for this disgrace.

    4. Nopowa says:

      So apt a 2×4 and the Mississippi, but by passing this they will now have to add 10,000 federal jobs at least $100,000.00 each to house these folks and they will now have 10,000 yes votes for the status quo.

    5. DJC says:

      Thanks to the Heritage Foundation for clarifying this issue. While the intent of the laws on PIPA and SOPA are laudable, the greater impact on the free exchange of information certainly is not. Hopefully Heritage's Morning Bell reaches the right people in Congress and the Senate to block any forthcoming legislation.

    6. Ron says:

      All i want to know is is this a Democrat or Republican fueled effort.

    7. Edward Kimble says:

      DMCA was poorly crafted. Even so it provided safe havens for conversation. Whatever else it is, the internet is the end of the traditional copyright. it only takes a millisecond to send a copy of a book anywhere in the world. Further, while it took multiple lifetimes to produce a work of art 600 years ago, today it takes seconds. Anyone can produce studio quality material and put it on the web in seconds. So tragically, like the buggy whip industry before it, the current gaggle of buggy whip manufacturers are up in arms over the notion that their reign is over. Recording studios, newspapers, television stations, are in every sense of the word, obsolete!! So rather than go through the extensive hand wringing brought on by these buggy whip lobbyists. Hold their hand, look them in the eye, and tell them that its over. And before you get sued by the authors of Grease II, "Do it for the loved ones in your life!".

    8. This is really concerning. Too protect the freedom of speach sometimes means protecting things one doesn't like.

    9. If you like your freedom of speech, read this, then use it!!!

    10. Whicket Williams says:

      Elections have consequences Why you people elect who you elect will always remain a mystery to me. Ron Paul is the only politician I ever saw worth voting for.

    11. Whicket Williams says:

      Why didn't the heritage foundation join the protest? Is it because they are ALREADY under the direction of the Establishment?

    12. Beth McGwire says:

      Hollywood throwing a fit is exactly why they want sop a. They don't think they have to move forward like the rest of us. Protect your own junk. Quit expecting the government to take care of you.

    13. T.J. says:

      Re the blackout: Shades of Ayn Rand! They are to be congratulated.

    14. Mike says:

      Once again congress takes a 'shotgun' to a problem instead of a 'rifle' approach. Why create a law to punish the multitude, while not going after the few criminals directly. This is another power grab and should not be 'pushed' by our representatives. It is for sure a move to reduce our 'freedom of speech'.

    15. Mary......WI says:

      Another TAKEOVER of American freedoms by Obama and his administration. More red flags that this country is being TAKEN in the wrong direction…..communism.

      I fear NOTHING can stop this man and his backers….to me he's a liar, cheater and only knows how to follow orders from someone else who is yet to be positively identified although George Soros keeps popping into my head. Be fearful folks, be very fearful. This coutnry is being "transformed" into something very ugly.

    16. Cathy says:

      This is just a stepping stone to the destrution of the Constitution. Once the under 40 are affected by these laws maybe, just maybe they will wake up! It only takes one person ruling for the many and I would like to know when will the many wake up! God save the USA!

    17. Steven McCoy says:

      This isn't going anywhere if Internet users and lovers of freedom have anything to do with it.

    18. Jeff DeMatteo says:

      Someone should tell this to the Huffington Post. They banned me from commenting because they felt my Political views and comments crossed the line. In reality, they go against their agenda and in the interim, I'm still seeing comments on their site where people are saying that some people shoul dbe killed for having an affair. Calling for death seems a little more "out of line" than me calling President Obama a hypocrite.

    19. Wondering why so many people will be shocked?

    20. Patriot58 says:

      I can't believe Marco Rubio would be co-sponsor of this. I guess it just shows that we have no perfect conservatives in the conservative coalition.

    21. Benton H Marder says:

      From the very beginning of the Internet, it was most advisable for writers and musicians and artists to come up with a mechanism to ensure that they were paid for their work BEFORE it got onto the Internet. It was always understood that, once it did, there was no way to prevent piracy. Such mechanisms were never developed. What these proposed laws intend is to lock the barn door after the horses have run off by seeing to it that the horses never get to leave the barn in the first place—the barn doors are never to be opened. The nature of the Internet really doesn't lend itself to tollgates of this sort. Simple as that.

    22. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Do we not realize under Obama we are loosing more of our freedoms and liberty every day. SOPA and PIPA, taking away our rights to free speech. NDAA giving the military the power to "detain" U.S. citizens for undetermined time, without filing charges, just because some bureaucrat thinks they may be contray to the administration's ideology. It's been said we would not recognize this country in a few years. Can anyone deny this is not true today under Obama.

      • Doug Nicholson says:

        That is 100% correct, Lloyd. SOPA & PIPA are terrible and probably unconstitutional, but NDAA is 10 times worse. You've even got Congresscritters giving interviews on talk radio saying, "No, the government would never arrest and detain a citizen without Habeas Corpus." but it's right there in the law in plain English.

    23. Meri says:

      Government…. stop regulating everything under the guise of security

    24. Fred DeSena says:

      I am a registered republican and also a supporter of Heritage Foundation fundamental principals- namely protecting our valuable U.S. Constitution and its accompanying Bill of Rights. While I am usually critical of Heritage Foundation's position on many topics, I applaud its position and language as regards SOPA and PIPA Heritage foundation here shows its strong unwavering commitment to the public's (real citizens) interest as guaranteed in our U.S. Constitution ( "We the People".) This is a direction that it should continue in and should win much support from constituency democrat and republican alike. Again, I thank the Heritage Foundation for remaining true to the country's roots-the founding fathers vision for our future, the U.S. constitution, and our "inalienable" rights. People come first-not corporations.

    25. EAU says:

      You say: "The Internet is the greatest engine for free speech and innovation ever known to humankind. Certainly its power can be used for good as well as bad, but censoring content, jeopardizing the security of the Internet, and stifling innovation is not the answer for protecting intellectual property rights." OK, then what is? Intellectual property, in fact, is the embodiment of innovation in America, grounded in the Constitution, Article I. Sec. 8, and it is currently being confiscated (copied) wholesale, illegally, by millions via the Internet. The key word here, missing from your sweeping conclusion, is "illegally". Analogizing your argument to the immigration situation, which is similar to the extent that if enough people engage in and get away with an activity, laws to prevent it can't be effectively enforced, your argument would suggest that "stopping immigration is not the answer to protecting the rights of all citizens." Most people would agree. But that is not the issue, in either case. Substitute "stopping illegal immigration" in the latter and "censoring illegal content" in the former, and one reaches a conclusion opposite to yours regarding censorship. I'm all for free speech, and against censorship thereof, so long as the "speech" is legal. As a corollary, censoring illegal copying would not and could not jeopardize the security of the Internet or stifle innovation, in my opinion. Am I wrong? For information, I am a long-time Heritage member, almost always agree with your positions, but this time we will agree to disagree. I believe that censoring illegal content on the Internet is an answer to protecting intellectual property thereon, otherwise, without protection, the property is worthless. Under current law, U.S. copyright rights attach to an original work of authorship at the moment of creation. I leave it to the computer geniuses to find a way to attach an electronic tag to each author's original work such that the work cannot be electronically copied without first sending an electronic authorization request back to the original author and obtaining his/her permission to do so.

    26. Scotty says:

      I agree that copyright and patent material should be protected, but do we need another wasteful worthless government bureau or czar to effect this? Aren't there now in place tort laws that can effectively protect these assets?

    27. Victoria DeLacy says:

      Indeed, we must keep the Internet free and accessible to the public. The Constitution guarantees our freedom of speech in the First Amendment and we must continue to fight to protect that freedom from those who would incrementally and systematically deprive us of it through measures such as this one. Let freedom ring!

    28. JOANNE STRAUSNER says:

      Keep government out of the internet.I want to be able to access information that will probably be censored if the goverment gets involved.Our freeedoms are being taken away bit by bit.People better wake up.while we still have the freedom we still have before it is to late,and they will be wondering how it happened.

    29. Serenity says:

      If people did not buy pirated items, those pirate sites would cease to exist.
      If it were socially unacceptable for people to buy the pirated items, such might lessen. However, kids think it is a joke, because we have removed education in integrity from the classrooms of America, and have consequently lost much of the virtue of the young.

    30. Jay Clow says:

      To mix a several metaphors…once the camel gets its nose under the tent, it will be Katie bar the door; and once you give the current Uncle Sam-I-Am an inch, he will take a mile (for starters).

    31. Hollywood and the Michael Moore crowd…why am I not shocked? The 1% ers want to protect even more profits {sarcasm}

    32. Val says:

      And SO Enters the dark cloud of COMMUNISM..Here goes, Freedom of speech , Privacy. "BIG BROTHER" in action. "CREEPY".! When will we Americans stand up and draw the LINE.????? Contact your State Government and complain, let them know just how Wrong this is.!

    33. C. Hyatt says:

      If you want to seriously screw something up, just let Congress get involved. Do we not have copyright laws currently on the books? If a company or recording artist does not want to push their product and property out on the web, then don't. If you find it on the web, hire an expert, track down the offender and punish them. Don't punish the conduit, punish the individual who has violated the law. We do not need more legislation. We need less. Yet one more example of how our government wants business to be their police force. Don't we have more important things for congress to worry about? How about $15 trillion in debt, how about congressional insider trading, how about our energy policy, how about education in America. The internet is (not the one invented by Al Gore) a truly unique and valuable resource. The minute congress puts their hands on it, it will be gone forever.

      • matt says:

        tracking down a pirate is next to impossible, its like trying to track down anyone who has ever littered, or sped, most of the time when they do find a source all they see is an ip address and no more information than that. sweet we'll go get that guy who has eyebrows!!!!

    34. allen says:

      Can't we just SHUT this corrupt Gov. down and get some newbies, this is just dumb. When Nov comes vote for the newbies if not you still have the Bams.

    35. Val says:

      SOPA and PIPA are so wrong in so many ways. Freedom of speech and privacy are being taken away from us. Be sure to call/write your state Reps and let them know how you feel about this as a US citizen.

    36. Leftshot says:

      This is the Internet equivalent of deputizing all U.S. citizens, making all the newspapers responsible for making sure none of their advertisers in any way violate intellectual property rights, all retailers would have to investigate and report on all their suppliers all the way back through the supply chain, telephone companies and all providers of transportation would have to insure no lawbreakers use their phone lines, streets, or vehicles, and landlords would have to make sure no illegal activities are going on inside of any of their rentals or leased spaces. And if any violations were found, the 'deputies' would now become criminals themselves and arrested.

    37. Daryl says:

      Another Obama capitalism and job killing effort!

    38. Jules says:

      Once again, the current administration and its cronies in the legislative branch are reaching to stifle freedoms and liberties of the citizens of this nation. I can imagine, almost foresee, this government stifling any info which could shed light on the machinations of the politicians running for office in November. To include the current occupier of the White House. Who would have control of this "court order"? Liberal judges appointed by the left and controlled by the same. Court orders to shut down websites, etc. would not be a problem for the left to obtain to do so. Then the only source of info would be the media approved by the left. Truth will die.
      The left and its collaborators slowly shutting off the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. My thanks to the idiots who voted for the current crop of politicians who are making all of this possible.

    39. Small business owner says:

      This very much so would be taking away people's Free agency!

    40. Robert says:

      I have to wonder if Heritage would also oppose patents (recall, guaranteed in our constitution). There does come a point where the internet is entirely too disruptive to a civilized society and letting it run wild is not entirely acceptable. I do understand that whenever we get our politicians involved, it is likely to produce more harm than good and something bordering on evil behaviors to satisfy the politicians' appetite for kick-backs.
      It will be interesting to watch this one; but if I write a book and it gets "shared" (spelled: stolen) across the internet, it will be impossible to recover from that and pay the bills here.

    41. This Orwellian bill will affect you and undermine your freedom of speech if you use the internet. If you don't know anything about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) this quick article will bring you up to speed on it. Inform yourself and act.

    42. Glen says:

      Here we go again. More Gov't takeover. Pretty soon we will be like China, where the Gov't controls every aspect of our lives. Every day an item comes up where it intrudes on our lives. Something must be done to stop this adminstration from controling our everyday lives. Pretty soon they will be telling us what toilet paper to use.

    43. mjalton says:

      Congress, the president and agencies are passing laws that are impossible to uphold. This way, they can pick and choose their targets going after whoever suits their political needs.

    44. Rob says:

      Need a Linked In feed so I can share a little easier.

    45. Cheryl says:

      This is just another attempt to stop people from talking about Obama and his cronies. One of my worst fears is people will still vote this man in office and if this happens he will have 4 more years to turn us into China. Someone once told me "in the end wrong will be right and right will be wrong". This is exactly what has happened over the past 10 years or so. Between shows allowing 2 year old say the F bomb to this idiot in office I just don't see hardly any good in the US now. Christians are being stomped on while others are allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want. Freedom as we knew it is gone and I don't see it coming back anytime soon (maybe never)

    46. ChuckL says:

      I am waiting for the "Morning Bell" article on the congressional misuse of the constitutional authority to grant limited time personal monopolies to human beings and instead granting almost permanent monopolies to fictitious persons, business entities, which instead of promoting Science and the useful arts, restricts them to the point of prohibition.

    47. BigJim Donnelly says:

      Annnnddd Theee MAN: BigJim Says: "AaaaaaMEN"!! "Semper-Fi!", (HAISCH)!
      (1.Cor.13.:11.; Isa.3.: 12.-15.)!

    48. BigJim Donnelly says:

      Annnnddd Theee MAN: BigJim Says: "AaaaaaMEN"!! "Semper-Fi!", (HAISCH)!
      (1.Cor.13.:11.; Isa.3.: 12.-15.)!

    49. Linda says:

      I agree this bill needs t be defeated, that it is an infringement on 1st amendment rights. New need no government interference with the Internet. I am aware that there is. I partisan support for it. Ordinarily I support Marcia Blackburn (R-TN) but on this she is dead wrong.

    50. Joseph McKennan says:

      If Hollywood, the music industry, and the US Chamber of Commerce have problems with piracy of copyrighted material they should seek ways to protect THEMSELVES– not bring the government into it. If my cow keeps getting out of the pasture I need to build a stronger fence— to use a Perot-ism– not have the state enact laws to protect my cow when she gets out,
      ANYTHING the government would do will be detrimental to the internet expression of ideas and material

    51. Karen4dfw says:

      This has Obama written all over it…….he wants to rip all of our American and constitional given rights right out from under us…..and if he accomplishes this well before the next election, all the better. He doesn't deal with criticism well at all and this would suit his purposes perfectly.

    52. Leith N. Wood says:

      Are we in Cuba, Russia or the new, socialist America? There needs to be a lot more discussion about this one, before any decision is made. If Obama is for it, we should be against it.

    53. matt says:

      people dont buy pirated material… its free. pirating is no different then listening to the radio, watching youtube, or going over to a friends house and watching a movie (which is illegal) and personally if im unsure on a movie im going to watch it online before i go buy it. im not going to my hard earned money on something that sucks, pirating definitely helps hollywood more than it hurts

    54. Terri Johannessen says:

      Thanks goes to Senator Marco Rubio for pulling his support to this terrible bill.

    55. Gary Cave says:

      My problem is when sites like Wikileaks post classified secrets (leaks), hence their name, and don't think they need to be accountable for it. Such action is TREASON!!! It should be dealt with as such. The last time I checked the constitution, including the Bill of Rights, treason was defined as "high crimes and misdemeanors"! I also feel that Hollywood is definitely too covetous (paranoid) of its copyrights. They need to "loosten up a little".

    56. Bre Cregor says:

      When I first read the title of Declan McCullagh's online article, "Obama Eyeing Internet ID for Americans", I truly thought someone was fostering conspiratorial ideas…until I found out it was true.
      And now I must face this fact.
      Highly disturbing.

    57. JPC says:

      This Government is taking away all of Constitutional rights we have left. Tell Bill Clinton he is not President any more. This President has no brains, he has to have the Clintons advise him how to make this a communist country. Congress is loaded with trators that are selling out our country. God help us.

    58. Sam says:

      It is not what an attorney tells us you may do, but what reason justice and humanity tells us we ought to do.

    59. Susan B says:

      Where do we go to sign the petition? That's what I want to do!!! DON'T BELIEVE IN BIG GOVERNMENT! Susan B.

    60. JPC says:

      Obama wants us to get a web ID, so he can control us and his new Constitutional agenda to control what we say about the 2012 election. He is a fraud with so many aliases and doesn't want to inform the people about his life being one big lie. This is about controlling the Internet and stopping us from being formed. God help us.

    61. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      What part of stopping internet piracy don't they understand?

    62. TheOtherWhiteMeat says:

      Why can't the parties who have been victimized by piracy take their own measures to stop it? As mentioned in the report, VHS-a scrambler was put on them to render them unreadable. Necessity is the mother of invention. WHY RELY ON THE GOV'T GOONS?

    63. Keep pushing, Washington. Keep pushing. I don't think it is going to take very much more before the masses decide that it is time for Option Two. In all honesty, I can't understand why it hasn't happened already.

    64. Fredy says:

      You seem to have omitted the part about Lamar Smith (R) TX, sponsor of SOPA, recieving MILLIONS from his corrupt Hollywood film-making buddies, was that on purpose…?

    65. daveburton says:

      Wikipedia's leftist bias infuriates me, but, like a stopped clock, even Wikipedia is occasionally right. This is one of those occasions.

    66. Freedomprevail says:

      I read about these issues taking place in Washington all the time. I email my Senators and Congressman about this and other controvercial legislation but nothing becomes of my emails. It seems that Obama and Harry Reid are the only ones that have a say in all of this. Why is that? Why is Harry Reid head of the Senate anyway when the Constitution says that the vice president is suppose to preside over the Senate? I keep hoping that people will wake up to the facts on what is taking place in Washington, put aside party politics and vote these Progressive Democrats and Republicans out of office.

    67. Clark Jensen says:

      Great article. Sometimes the details and the reasoning behind our laws is hard to figure out. Heritage does a great job of keeping us infomed about the real issues and the Constitutional basis behind their opinions. While SOPA and PIPA were intended to solve some piracy problems, they create more problems than they solve.

      In the past 20 years, how many of the laws that have been passed were necessary? If all the laws that have been passed in the last 20 years were repealed, would we be better off or worse off? I think we would be better off.

      Here is a link if you are interested

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.