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SOPA a bad law ?

Dear Reader,

To be frank with you I do not like the idea of people being able to steal the copyrighted works of others. When I was a university teacher in the UK I once had to deal with a plagiarism case, it was horrible. I view plagiarism as the intellectual version of stealing milk bottles from the house next door because you are too lazy to order or buy your own milk, it is deeply wrong.

However sometimes the cure for a disease is worse than the disease, for example how about a dose of a potent anticancer drug associated with hair loss to cure unsightly hair on the back of your hands !? My answer to such a cure for hairy backs of hands would be to say “no thank you, what a stupid idea !”.

Sadly in the US a bill is being debated which might well be a dire cure which will cause more harm than the disease. The bill is PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. You read one point of view about it and you can see a film about it here.

While I have nothing against a court order being obtained to close down a site if the site is based in the same state / country as the court. I do have a problem with the idea of a law which allows the creation of a censorship wall or a law which allows a US court to demand that search engines (or the DNS) block access to sites. I suspect that no real due process will exist and that as well as blocking the sites of a range of wrongdoers many innocent sites will be blocked in error.

I would suggest that the law should be improved in the following way, any person / company who can show that their site has been unfairly blocked or affected should be offered a remedy.  The person / company which filed the wrongful case against them should be required to pay for all costs, expenses and loss of earnings plus large punitive damages. The standard of proof for this counter claim should be no higher than that required for the original blocking order or the standard balance of probabilities (normal civil case) which ever is a lower standard of proof.


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