Remember SOPA and PIPA? Of course you don’t, and they are not Kate Middleton’s sister and cousin. Okay, well maybe some of you might be familiar with these two gems, for those who do not know, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) were bills that sought to put an end to media piracy in the online arena. Sounds good right? I mean no one likes that kind of thing, no one except those who are in the business of distributing pirated material. Well, those bills failed to achieve liftoff because despite these bills having names everyone can rally around; they essentially opened the door to allow the government to censor the internet. It is already illegal for you to willingly participate, with your own money in online poker sites (go here and read the government’s lovely little message) these laws would give the federal government unprecedented abilities to literally control web content – but they would stop piracy right? Umm, no. Well, thanks to the powers of the internet community they were able to halt these bills in their tracks, but not kill them entirely.
The father of those two attempts at government overreach is Rep. Lamar Smith (Republican) of the 21st Congressional District in Texas; you know the same state and party that wants to do away with critical thinking curriculum in their schools? Well, just as any proud parent would, he has not given up on his fight for control of the internet, err, I mean against online piracy. Earlier this month, with very little fanfare or publicity Mr. Smith has introduced a new and improved bill to his buddies in Congress, this one is called The Intellectual Property Attaché Act (IPAA?) and this new little piece of umm, “legislation” gives more power to attachés abroad to help enforce US copyright laws. Hey, that’s not so bad, right? I mean it isn’t about the ability to censor the internet anymore, so we all can still watch YouTube videos and share otherwise copyrighted pictures on Pinterest without fear of being sent to a gulag somewhere, but wait, there’s more – and there always is more when we are talking about the government.
A provision of this bill is to take these attachés out of the jurisdiction of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the department that handles US intellectual property rights, and instead create a shiny, brand new government department just for them, with its stated mission to be, “to advance the intellectual property rights of United States persons and their licenses.” Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Hey, I get it; we do need to ensure that our intellectual rights and property are respected, not just here, but abroad too. The thing about this bill though is that it isn’t so much about our government working with foreign governments to help stem the flow of internet piracy, it is more about our government telling foreign governments that our law supersedes their laws. If you believe that is a kosher way to treat your friends and neighbors then I image your BBQ’s are poorly attended. I for one still believe that you can attract more bees with a teaspoon of honey than a gallon of vinegar. I also have to ask all of my Republican friends out there, do you still believe that your lovely GOP is actually about smaller, less intrusive government; especially in light of this rootin’ tootin’ Texan’s wish to add another layer of bureaucracy to an already morbidly obese Uncle Sam? Oh, and his SOPA’s and PIPA’s are not officially dead, they’re simply shelved, so there is still a chance we could eventually be blessed with their consequences too.
A good intention clothes itself with sudden power – Ralph Waldo Emerson