December 14, 2011

Steve Chabot Must Renounce His Co-Sponsorship and Oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

Well, this is a slap in the face.

My “new” congressman, thanks to Ohio’s convoluted redistricting (latest version, hot off the presses, is here), is co-sponsoring a bill which could lead to “an Internet without uploading,” i.e., it would gut the Internet.

OH-01′s Steve Chabot, whose sensible conservative cred was pretty high during his seven previous terms in Congress, who embraced the Tea Party movement in its early stages, and who regained his seat by defeating incumbent Steve “Sore Loser” Driehaus in 2010, inexplicably became one of the early co-sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (link is to large PDF of the original bill) back on October 26.

(Before getting into specifics, Steve, you and other Republican co-sponsors need to buy a clue based solely on a few of the other co-sponsors who have since come on board: John Conyers (D-MI), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL and DNC Chairwoman), and Melvin Watt (D-NC). You should know better than to associate yourselves with anything these folks get behind.)

Bill Wilson at Americans for Limited Government succinctly states the potential harm the legislation would do in its current form, even after main sponsor Lamar Smith of Texas’s “manager’s amendment” (bolds are mine throughout this post):

… It doesn’t come close to addressing all of the concerns with this legislation. In fact, it doesn’t appear to have changed much about it at all.

This legislation will still give government the power to censor the Internet in the name of protecting copyright. It will still threaten any website that allows users to upload content with being shut down, including social networks and search engines.

It still takes the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and throws them in the garbage. Those safe harbor provisions have for years protected websites that provided easy takedown procedures for potential infringing materials, and already had a system in place for their removal under current law.

The bill will still allow copyright holders to pursue private actions against alleged infringing websites with the force of law behind them, including seeking the termination of advertising and payment services, whether the site is foreign or domestic.

Finally, even with its so-called “savings” clauses, the manager’s amendment will still risk placing unfeasible, court-ordered technology mandates on Internet service providers requiring websites to somehow prevent their services from being used to post infringing material, even if doing so is technically impossible. To avoid litigation, Internet companies will simply stop allowing uploading and file sharing all together.

That is the greatest danger of all. That, in the name of protecting copyright, this bill bring about the end of the Internet as we know it.

More from Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds:

It’s a terrible bill. Simply by introducing it, the sponsors — including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) have violated their oaths of office. In a moral society, they would immediately resign and commit honorable suicide. Since this isn’t such, we must hound them and humiliate them as best we can. They’ll probably try to make that illegal next.

Memo to Steve Chabot: I’m trying to come up with a reason why the “honorable resignation and (career) suicide” option shouldn’t apply to co-sponsors. I can’t.

Eric Schmidt of Google (yes, I know he hasn’t been the best of examples throughout his own career, e.g., the Great Firewall of China) has also weighed in:

Google chairman says online piracy bill would ‘criminalize’ the Internet

An online piracy bill in the House would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt said the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would punish Web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. He said implementing the bill as written would effectively break the Internet.

“By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet,” Schmidt said, calling it a form of censorship.

… I understand the goal of what SOPA and PIPA are trying to do,” Schmidt said of the Senate counterpart bill, the Protect IP Act. “Their goal is reasonable, their mechanism is terrible. They should not criminalize the intermediaries. They should go after the people that are violating the law.”

If you’re wondering why the legacy media outlets haven’t been all over this (e.g., searches on various terms at the Associated Press’s main national site yielded only one November 30 story about Schmidt’s outlook), it’s simple: If bloggers and others can’t excerpt or potentially even link to others’ content without running afoul of fear-driven ISP policies, the establishment press would regain near-total control over the news narrative — especially in the early stages — that they have substantially lost during the New Media age. Other than having an improved ability to complain to each other, we’d be back to the 1950s, just like that. They would consider that a feature, not a bug.

Getting back to Chabot — Steve, if you didn’t have your previous track record, I would disown you on the spot. As it is, you have a limited amount of time to regain your sanity and renounce this bill. Waiting …


UPDATE: Especially offensive is the bill’s frequently repeated inclusion of provisions that no matter what the Attorney General does or how wrong he may be about whether a site has actually committed any of the offenses indicated, he and the government are immune from liability.

UPDATE 2, 8 p.m.: I called the Congressman’s Washington office shortly before 6 p.m. and was promised an email response, which I have yet to see.



  1. Really? This was a no-brainer…epic fail Steve.

    Comment by Gretch — December 14, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

  2. [...] very little doubt that “my” congressman, erstwhile Tea Party supporter turned co-sponsoring Internet censor Steve Chabot, has been voting with the committee’s misguided [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — December 17, 2011 @ 8:15 am

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