How to Shake Off the Ghost of SOPA
How to Shake Off the Ghost of SOPA
How to Shake Off the Ghost of SOPA

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    The latest controversy with the Intellectual Property Attaché
    Act, formerly a provision within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is entirely
    self-inflicted by its lead sponsors. 

    You do not have to be a political strategist to figure out
    that trying to pass a piece of SOPA might in fact inflame the wide array of
    opposition to SOPA.  You also can not cry
    foul when you secretly develop the legislation, hold no legislative hearing on
    its merits, and attempt (and thankfully fail) to move the legislation through
    the Committee almost 24 hours after it was leaked to the press.  Each of these steps flies in the face of the request
    made by opponents to SOPA for
    more openness, inclusion, and transparency
    for intellectual property policy
    decisions.  It is as if the some believe that
    the business of copyright legislating can proceed as usual and that the
    Internet Black Out never occurred. 

    If the House Judiciary Committee wants to shake off the
    ghost of SOPA and avoid having legislation blow up in their collective faces,
    they need to rethink how they move intellectual property bills.  The Committee must proactively work at justifying
    to the public why a bill is necessary and win their support for its passage
    before voting it out.  It should stop
    trying to move bills first and put the burden on the public to stop them from
    blindly moving forward.  It is long
    overdue that they take the public seriously and stop
    telling themselves
    the myth that Google and Wikipedia orchestrated a
    misinformation campaign to kill SOPA. 

    So to begin the exorcism of SOPA, Public Knowledge would
    suggest that the House Judiciary Committee first lay out publicly what exactly
    is the problem that it needs to address by diverting more taxpayer resources
    towards enforcement despite the vast
    array of federal agencies already doing the job
    .  The best way to start that process would be
    to officially introduce the legislation and schedule a legislative hearing on
    the bill.  Sponsors of the legislation
    should articulate to the public why the bill is necessary and what harms will
    befall the public if the legislation failed to move at all.  It would also be nice to avoid what they did
    with SOPA by stacking
    the panel with supporters
    and stifling the opportunity for dissent.  This is not a radical proposal given that normally
    this is how a bill becomes law in Congress (though it is new for legislating on

    a PDF
    of a staff draft is not only insufficient, it is disingenuous given
    that it can be changed any minute before a vote (unlike an officially
    introduced piece of legislation).  Pretending
    this has nothing to do with SOPA when you basically copy pages
    70 to 78
    from SOPA and paste it into a new bill insults the intelligence of the public.  They have spoken loudly
    against all of SOPA and trying to pass a piece of SOPA does not suddenly become
    acceptable as an alternative.  Anything
    that will impact intellectual property and the Internet must require more time
    and thought than renaming
    a post office
    and the sooner that is acknowledged and acted on, the sooner the Committee
    can shake off the ghost SOPA.