January 2

Washington legislators may have finally lost their minds. Two bills winding their way through Congress — the House’s “Stop Online Piracy Act” (aka, SOPA) and the Senate’s “Protect IP Act of 2011” (aka, Protect IP) — could gut the very foundation of the Internet.

But don’t just take my word for it. The same conclusion is represented by three distinguished law professors from Stanford, Elon, and Temple universities in their jointly published essay, “Don’t Break the Internet.”

Here are a couple of snippets from the authors’ essay:

“The procedures outlined in both bills fail [a] fundamental constitutional test. Websites can be ‘completely removed from circulation’ — rendered unreachable by, and invisible to, Internet users in the United States and abroad — immediately upon application by the government, without any reasonable opportunity for the owner or operator of the website in question to be heard or to present evidence on his or her own behalf. This falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation.”

“As serious as these infirmities are, SOPA, the House’s bill, builds upon them, enlarges them, and makes them worse. Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever.”

In the noise of all of the other political gyrations in Washington, legislation that could undermine the foundation of the Internet could squeak through. I urge you to review the entire legal analysis at this link.  If you’re equally concerned, you may want to consider contacting your Congressional representatives.

Image courtesy Stanford Law Review.