The good news is that there is an alternative to SOPA, recently introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), which would effectively stop online piracy without harming legitimate U.S. businesses and campaigns. The Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act would create a process for rights holders to protect their property that wouldn’t shut down entire sites over a small amount of copyrighted material. This legislation helps to solve copyright infringement while protecting the vitality of the U.S.-based Internet sector — an industry that has contributed 23 percent of the growth in world gross domestic product and has revolutionized the way we live.
By creating legislation that allows sites to be shut down at will, with limited recourse available to the sites’ owners, SOPA greatly threatens the democratizing tool the Internet has become. With the Internet playing an ever increasing role in the political process, the powers the bill creates could be greatly abused by those wishing to silence their opponents.
Political campaigns and anyone interested in an open political process should be greatly concerned about the regulations SOPA creates and the freedoms it restricts. Online piracy needs to be stopped, but not at the expense of creating a legal wasteland that could restrict the vital flow of candidate and campaign information on the Internet.
Stephen DeMaura is the former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party and the current president of Americans for Job Security. David Segal is executive director of Demand Progress, a former Rhode Island state Representative and an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in 2010.