Google Chairman Eric Schmidt made some interesting comments on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) during and after a recent visit to the Economic Club of Washington. In discussing SOPA, Schmidt had the following to say, as relayed by Gautham Nagesh at TheHill.com:
An online piracy bill in the House would "criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself," according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Schmidt said the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would punish Web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. He said implementing the bill as written would effectively break the Internet.
"By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet," Schmidt said, calling it a form of censorship. "If Congress writes a bad law, we all suffer," Schmidt said. He compared the proposal to the Web censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China.
"It's not a good thing. I understand the goal of what SOPA and PIPA are trying to do," Schmidt said of the Senate counterpart bill, the Protect IP Act. "Their goal is reasonable, their mechanism is terrible. They should not criminalize the intermediaries. They should go after the people that are violating the law."
Schmidt also criticized SOPA for targeting the Domain Name System, which experts have warned could undermine the security of the Web. "What they're essentially doing is whacking away at the DNS system and that's a mistake. It's a bad way to go about solving the problem," Schmidt said.
While it is plain that Schmidt has a vested interest in ensuring that SOPA doesn't pass as currently written, his comments summarize the perspectives of many internet freedom activists as well. To them, SOPA is seen as a potential encroachment on the freedom of internet users that, once lost, will never be regained.
There are some legitimate concerns about protecting intellectual property on the internet, particularly because of its global nature. However, there are solutions that don't create such a great potential for infringing on the rights of web users. In other words, follow the money. Don't penalize those who link to or seek information, penalize those who host pirated content. Otherwise, the internet as we know it could soon be a thing of the past.