Reihan Salam has an excellent column about the latest intellectual property law overreach, Senator Pat Leahy’s PROTECT IP bill:
Protect IP claims to be about combating online piracy, hence the bill’s clever name (it stands for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property). Yet in the name of policing copyright violations, Protect IP effectively makes it a felony to link to a website that is accused — that’s right, only accused — of being devoted to copyright infringement. As Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt explained to a press conference in London, Protect IP and laws like it will prove a “disastrous precedent” for free speech. He is absolutely right. Linking is the fundamental building block of the Internet, and hyperlinks are a form of free speech protected under the Constitution. Once the United States government starts messing with hyperlinks, every two-bit dictatorship on the planet will have carte blanche to do the same.
Fortunately, Ron Wyden has put a hold on this bill so we’re safe for now.
The baseline issue that legislators ought to ask themselves before they sign on to yet another draconian IP strengthening bill is this: What am I trying to fix? Are constituents writing in to complain that it’s harder than ever to find new music recordings to listen to? On the contrary, it’s never been easier. Are constituents concerned that Hollywood doesn’t crank out capital-intensive movies with stellar special effects these days? Again, no—special effects are getting cheaper and better. And because we now have lots of original programming from cable networks, we’re producing more television shows than ever before. It would be very strange to reach the conclusion that Americans in the year 2011 are suffering from a lack of entertainment options. The truth is that the push for these new laws is all about efforts to shore up specific businesses who are hurting precisely because the range of options available to consumers has escalated so dramatically.