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Let's Play Fair on SOPA and Copyright

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Writing in the Huffington Post, Leslie Harris, the president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, accused Senator Chris Dodd of promoting Internet censorship through rogue website blocking. Harris wrote that Senator Dodd "...directly (and apparently favorably) compared the Internet filtering contemplated in two controversial U.S. anti-piracy bills to Chinese Internet censorship... It is hard to find a benign headline for his remarks. How about 'MPAA to Google: 'You did it for China; now do it for Hollywood''?"

This is a cheap shot at Senator Dodd, which is starting to become pretty common stuff from Google surrogates like the Center for Democracy and Technology. It appears designed to deflect attention away from the core issue in the rogue sites legislation -- the public is being endangered by bad actors on the Internet and U.S. companies are profiting from it.

No one knows this better than Google -- or rather, Google stockholders -- because the company just paid a $500,000,000 million forfeiture with the stockholders' money for promoting the sale of counterfeit drugs and controlled substances online. And more importantly -- signed a nonprosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly to keep their senior management team from being indicted.

Harris argues from a faulty premise by conflating "censorship" with Senator Dodd's appeal to Google to do the right thing and block rogue sites in search results. If Google's $500,000,000 drug fine is evidence of anything, it is evidence that the company does not want to do the right thing unless it is threatened with criminal prosecution.

A demonstration of Google's ability to block rogue sites from search results was when it inadvertently blocked the Pirate Bay from search. Rather than acknowledge that the Pirate Bay has been criminally convicted of copyright infringement and that a responsible U.S. company should not help bad actors, Google assured users that the Pirate Bay would be right back in search as soon as possible.

All Senator Dodd was asking was that Google do to the Pirate Bay intentionally that which it had already done inadvertently.

But if a company will promote the sale of drugs until they are threatened with criminal prosecution, why would you think that same company wouldn't contract willful blindness for stealing movies, too? This has nothing to do with "China." This has to do with cold hard cash, and by the looks of things, a lot of it. Which is no doubt why if you search for "buy oxycontin online no prescription" in Google right now, you will get the helpful Auto-complete for "buy oxycontin online no prescription cheap."

Google apparently wants to make rogue sites a fight between Silicon Valley and "Hollywood" (whoever that is), not a frank discussion of its own cavalier attitude about the public health as enunciated by Chairman Lamar Smith at the recent SOPA hearing. Hence the cheap shots.

It's no surprise that this kind of fallacious rhetoric comes from the CDT, however. The CDT recently got a $500,000 payment from Google as part of the Google Buzz settlement--the more remarkable because CDT was referred to in court papers as a group that lobbies or consults for Google to which the court did not note an objection. There are many connections -- all of which could be cleared up one way or another if CDT disclosed its donors.

This is not the first time we have heard this "censorship" spin from CDT. In the last Congress, a group of "humanitarians" signed a letter that essentially told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee if they voted for COICA they would undermine America's bona fides as a bastion of free expression.

You see, if rogue sites legislation was passed, Robert Mugabe would no longer look to the U.S. Congress for guidance before he hanged the insurgents, Al Zawahiri would not seek inspiration from the crusaders, and the Haquanni network would not check in with the DOJ before doing its evil deeds. At least according to the humanitarians.

Although, in a strange coincidence, large chunks of the humanitarian letter were taken nearly word for word from a talking points memo written by -- CDT.

This "censorship" line is singularly unpersuasive. But don't believe me, believe Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary Clinton recently wrote in an Oct. 25th letter:

The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights on the Internet is critical for the United States, for its creators and inventors, and for the jobs it promotes and the economic promise it provides. There is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement and ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet.... The rule of law is essential to both Internet freedom and protection of intellectual property rights, which are both firmly embedded in U.S. law and policy.

And that is exactly the point.

When Google's stock price sank after it announced the $500,000,000 drug forfeiture, one commentator noted that investors may be losing confidence in whether Google can support the legality of its revenues -- and for good reason. Cheap shots won't change the facts. A half billion here and a half billion there and pretty soon that's a lot of money. Where there's smoke, there's fire and it smells like a fire in the house of Google.

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