Think Tank: Anti-Piracy Legislation Would Not Lead to Censorship

Washington group finds complaints over two Congressional bills “completely unfounded and without merit”

A Washington, D.C., technology innovation think tank says claims that Congress’ efforts against online piracy would “break the internet” and usher in censorship are “completely unfounded and without merit.”

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study addresses criticism of the proposed PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. Both would give the Justice Department authority to shut down rogue offshore websites that flog everything from pirated music and movies to bogus pharmaceuticals via the internet.

Critics such as Google and a host of public advocacy groups say that the laws – which would filter domain names — would be tantamount to the “first American internet censorship system,” that could impede innovation and restrict free and open communications on the web.

The study concedes the filtering could be used in such away — but argues that society still allows police to carry guns even though they can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

“It is not the tool of DNS blocking that is at issue, but the legal regime in which the tool is allowed to be used,” the study says. “Some of these opponents of PIPA/SOPA are more interested in protecting access to free illegal content than they are in protecting free speech. Yet aside from these bold claims, critics have done little to show how enforcing IP rights violates any American’s First Amendment rights.”

Human rights, including the freedom of speech, are “a fundamental part of our democracy,” the study says. “But this legislation makes no attempt to regulate speech on the internet. An individual’s right to free speech is not a license to infringe on the IP rights of others. The freedom of speech does not give internet users the right to steal digital content.”

The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America both support the proposed legislation. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), sponsor of SOPA, said last week that the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, would continue to work on the bill’s language.

“Finding a reasonable solution to the problem of online piracy and counterfeiting is too important to let hysterical, ideological posturing and threats influence public policy,” concludes the study. “It is time for policymakers to take a deep breath and consider this issue on the basis of facts and rational argumentation.”