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Nov. 29, 2011
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We've written a few times about how columnists at various mainstream press outlets have been speaking out against SOPA and PIPA, showing that the story is catching on in the mainstream media. However, some of our critics have complained that since these are just writers for those publications, it's unfair to suggest that the publication itself has come out. Okay... if that's the way you want it. Let's try this one on for size: the New York Times has officially come out against SOPA and PIPA. No, not a columnist, but an official editorial, meaning that it's the official stance of the paper. After discussing how infringement is an issue, it notes that the definitions are way too broad, and says:
The purpose of the legislation is to stop business flowing to foreign rogue Web sites like the Pirate Bay in Sweden. But these provisions could affect domestic Web sites that are already covered by the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That act has safe harbors protecting sites, like YouTube, that may unknowingly host pirated content, as long as they take it down when notified.While most of the editorial focuses on SOPA, it also mentions that PROTECT IP "has serious problems that must be fixed." The fixes that the NY Times suggests are as follows:
The bill should be made to stipulate clearly that all of its provisions are aimed only at rogue Web sites overseas. Foreign sites must be granted the same safe harbor immunity — and the bill must not open the door to punishments for domestic sites that abide by the 1998 digital copyright law. And rather than encouraging credit card companies and advertising networks to pre-emptively cut off business to Web sites accused of wrongdoing, a court order should be required before they take action.As noted above, earlier in the editorial, it also comes out against any kind of DNS blocking, and suggests, if anything, only financial services should be cut off. I have some issues with that approach as well, but it would be a hell of a lot better than the bills we have now.
If that's not enough for you, how about an official editorial from the LA Times, again representing the official position of the editorial staff of the paper. This one may be even more surprising, given that the LA Times is the MPAA's hometown paper. The LA Times editorial is quite similar to the NY Times one, noting that neither proposal appears likely to help, and actually neither proposal even appears to be getting towards the "right answer."
Both bills go to risky extremes, however, in their efforts to stop these sites from attracting an audience. Of the two, the House bill goes further down the wrong path, weakening protections for companies — including those based in the United States — that enable users to store, publish or sell goods online. The change could force such companies to monitor everything their users do, turning them into a private security force for copyright and trademark owners.At this point, I think it's difficult to argue that the mainstream press is ignoring this issue, or that they're simply "supporting pirates."