Unless you reside in the state he represents — Texas — probably the only reason you’ve heard the name of Lamar Smith in the past month or so is because of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that’s responsible for so much consternation thanks to the almost-unilateral lack of support the protection acts received from the Internet community.
While much of the SOPA resistance takes the shape of protecting the open nature of the Internet, as well as protecting the concept of DNS, which was potentially threatened by how SOPA enforces its standards. Read much more about the potential threat SOPA could pose to DNS here. The concern here is Lamar Smith’s insistence that SOPA is not as potentially destructive as some make it out to be, and that it won’t hurt the freedoms popular sites like Reddit enjoy.
Smith’s comments appeared in a post over at Roll Call, and with them, Smith dismisses just about every criticism that’s been levied against his unpopular stop piracy legislation:
“The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts,” Smith said in a statement.
Smith was also asked about Reddit, the popular link aggregator that derives much of its content from user submissions (and user approval of said submissions). Many Reddit regulars view SOPA as a threat because of nature of the content being shared. Smith’s response addressed them directly:
“It’s a vocal minority. Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded.”
While I won’t assume to speak for Reddit community, much of the Reddit content shared via Imgur, the image hosting service of choice for Reddit users, could be considered intellectual property someone wants to protect. Under the stipulations of SOPA, Imgur would be in danger of being shutdown because someone complained and invoked the much-maligned act.
That, however, is only one potential application of SOPA concerning Reddit and other similar sites. What if, say, Warner Brothers didn’t like the fact a user submitted the non-official trailer of an upcoming Warner Brothers movie instead of the official version Warner Brothers wants us to consume? How much power would Warner Brothers have under SOPA? Could they shut the site in question down, all because video in question didn’t contain the WB watermark? Under SOPA, it’s a distinct possibility, regardless whether the site is foreign or not.
Perhaps that will shed some light on why Reddit users, as well as many others, oppose the protection acts, no matter how much Lamar Smith tries to salve the wounds of concern. Of course, to Smith, the only sites that need to worry about SOPA are the foreign infringing sites, provided you buy that little bit of misdirection.