from the figure-that-one-out dept
Yesterday, I was on a “panel” discussion at the Congressional Internet Caucus’s “State of the Net” event. At some point, I believe we’ll have some video of that, which we can post. However, at one point, moderator Tim Lordan asked panelist Steve Tepp, from the US Chamber of Commerce, about the claims that SOPA/PIPA only impact “foreign” sites, and argued that under the definitions in the bill sites like Google.ca or Amazon.co.uk would be subject to the bills, and thus they would effect the American companies who run them. Tepp insisted this wasn’t true, because the bill only applies to “US-directed sites” and a site that is a .ca or .co.uk wouldn’t be considered US-directed. However, First Amendment lawyer Marvin Ammori sensed a pretty obvious problem with that. If what Tepp argues is true, he’s basically saying that SOPA and PIPA apply to no websites at all. Remember, supporters of the bills insist that they don’t apply to .coms or .orgs or any other site using a TLD controlled by a US register. So that wipes out that batch of domains. But, here, Tepp now seems to be claiming that it also doesn’t apply to any site with a country specific TLD… because those aren’t US-directed. So… um… what’s left?
First, the bills define US-directed site to mean almost any site that you can access in the US. PIPA does not have a definitive test, but it lets courts determine which sites are directed to the US based on several indicia, including whether the “Internet site has reasonable measures in place to prevent such goods and services from being accessed from or delivered to the United States.” (PIPA, page 48.) Meaning, if the site hasn’t blocked American users from accessing the site, then it’s US-directed. The whole point of the Internet, though, is that sites are globally available, and not blocked for particular countries. SOPA, on the House side, merely requires “minimum contacts” sufficient for personal jurisdiction, which is a very low standard that would touch most sites–as any law student would learn after reading the International Shoe case in the second week of Civil Procedure. (See SOPA, page 9).
Second, this argument is unconvincing because it suggests that the bills would cover zero sites in the whole world. If Amazon.co.uk and Google.ca are exempt from the bill, then so are ThePirateBay.co.uk or ThePirateBay.ca. The point of SOPA and PIPA, in theory, is to target foreign sites, who are defined based on having foreign domain names. So, the Chamber is saying, “Don’t worry Google.com won’t be subject to the bills because that’s not a foreign site.” Now it says, “Don’t worry, Google.ca won’t be subject to the bills because it’s not a US-directed site.” Does that mean neither MegaUpload.com or MegaUpload.ca is subject to the bill? By my count then, the bills don’t apply to any sites that have a domestic domain name nor do they apply to any sites that have a foreign domain name.
The Chamber is trying to convince us that the bills apply to zero websites and companies? They wouldn’t apply to MegaUpload.com or MegaUpload.ca, Google.com or Google.ca, ThePirateBay.org or ThePirateBay.fr?
This doesn’t strike me as highly convincing.Why would studios and labels spend millions trying to pass a bill that affects zero websites and companies?
Indeed. It’s this kind of duplicity that has people so fed up with the lobbyist/politician lies being spread about this bill by supporters. The language was written purposely, so that they could insist it won’t actually do any of the awful things the bill clearly allows… while knowing full well that’s exactly how the bill will be used (regularly) after it passes.