.Gov versus the Spontaneous Order

Today a number of websites are either going dark (see Wikipedia) or blackening out some part of their logo (see Google) in protest to SOPA(Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House and the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate. This is an interesting issue. Advocates of the bills claim that they will provide new tools for shutting down rogue websites that are used to download material that is protected by copyright.

The protection of property rights should one of the fundamental functions of government. However, opponents argue rather convincingly that the government already has adequate tools to battle online piracy by forcing the removal of materials covered by a copyright (e.g., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

This legislation is different insofar as it targets the platform. These bills would allow the government to shut a website down, prevent it from appearing in search engine results, and freeze payments and ad revenue. In short, it vastly expands the power of the state.  It may also produce a good deal of collateral damage (e.g., small startups might find the costs of monitoring content to be prohibitive, enhanced oversight by platforms might have a chilling effect on speech as they become de facto censors working in the shadow of the state).

For additional coverage, see the New York Times and The Hill.

For some libertarian critiques,  there is quite a bit at the  Electronic Frontier Foundation and Cato (Julian Sanchez and Jim Harper).

3 thoughts on “.Gov versus the Spontaneous Order

  1. One has to question whether this bill is even Constitutional under the article one, section eight grant to Congress, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. Even with the Necessary and Proper clause, I don’t think the government can honestly claim it is fulfilling the copyright clause with this bill. The copyright clause says nothing about denying due process to copyright violators. This bill effectively removes any semblance of due process to any accused violator.

    1. Agreed. From what I understand, members of Congress can still find a copy of the original Constitution in the Smithsonian.

      1. Many – right and left – don’t really care what is in the Constitution as revealed by their behavior! So I’m guessing tourists are the only customers over at the Smithsonian, with few exceptions.

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