Views on copyright law have never broken down cleanly along ideological or partisan lines, but many of the key supporters for the Stop Online Piracy Act have come from the political right. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and it enjoys support from right-leaning, corporate-funded organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Tax Reform.
But a growing number of right-leaning individuals and organizations have come out against SOPA. Last Wednesday, the Heritage Foundation, one of the nation's largest and most influential conservative think tanks,published an article by senior research fellow James Gattuso warning about the "unintended consequences" of SOPA. And on Thursday, he was joined in opposing SOPA by Erick Erickson, editor of the popular conservative blog RedState.And that includes me as well. I agree with Gattuso's careful statement of the problem with SOPA:
SOPA would undercut other policy goals as well. The requirement that search engines omit links to rogue sites undercuts the role of search firms as trusted intermediaries in conveying information to users. There are, of course, other circumstances where search engines already omit information and links—for instance, Google routinely screens out child pornography from its search results. But there has never been a government mandate that information be withheld from search results. Imposing such a mandate would represent the first step down a classic slippery slope of government interference that has no clear stopping point.
Arguably, the limits placed on search engines as well as other third parties under SOPA would also violate constitutional protections of freedom of speech. But even if not barred legally, any such restrictions should be imposed only after the most careful consideration, only when absolutely necessary, and even then, to the smallest degree possible.As Gattuso points out, some of the most dangerous aspects of SOPA, which would allow scum like Righthaven to shut down websites without even going before a judge, have been scrapped. But what remains in the law remains overreaching.