Angry Americans defeat censorship

By Jayson Jacoby, The Baker City Herald

We were pleased to watch last week as the hot breath of Americans, angry over the possible hobbling of the free-ranging Internet, prevailed over the chill wind of censorship.

A pair of bills, one in the U.S. Senate and one in the House of Representatives, seem destined for failure.

These bills, according to supporters, have the laudable goal of

preventing websites from illegally profiting from copyrighted material

such as music and movies.

But critics, chief among them Oregon's senior U.S. senator, Democrat

Ron Wyden, contend the bills - known best by their initials, PIPA and

SOPA - would do a lot more than that.

The problem, opponents say, is that PIPA or SOPA would make websites

such as YouTube and Facebook, which allow users to post content,

legally responsible for posts that contain copyrighted material.

Wyden, along with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has drafted an

alternative bill. Their Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital

Trade Act (OPEN Act), the legislators say, would protect intellectual

property without imposing restrictions that constitute, in effect,


The OPEN Act is a far better option than the two other bills, largely

because it more specifically targets the most egregious copyright

thieves, many of them based outside the U.S.

We hope, though, that in practice the Issa-Wyden legislation delivers

what it promises: real protection for the owners of copyrighted


Congress would be remiss if, in trying to uphold Americans' free speech

rights, it neglected those who have legally protected their own


The furor over SOPA and PIPA has, it seems to us, led to some slight exaggerations as to what's at stake.

If you believe some of the more hysterical claims, those bills threaten the First Amendment itself.

Yet even if PIPA or SOPA would sound the death knell for YouTube, that

hardly constitutes the end of the Internet as a bastion of free


Let's say there are two bloggers. One thinks President Obama is the

worst president in U.S. history, the other argues that Mitt Romney,

were he elected to replace Obama, would lead the country to disaster.

There's no reason to believe that any of the copyright-protection bills

- including PIPA and SOPA - would dissuade either hypothetical blogger

from posting his opinion, ad nauseum.

Conspiracy theories aside, the debate over copyright infringement

online has proven, yet again, that ordinary Americans can exert

considerable clout when they're sufficiently aroused.

That power, combined with savvy political leadership from the likes of

Wyden, can curtail the government's more draconian schemes.

It's worth remembering, though, that expressing your opinion that

something's rotten in Salem or Washington, D.C., rarely requires the

theft of a popular pop song or movie.

The Baker City Herald
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Tuesday October 25, 2016

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