Tracking the Blackout: Ordering Chinese Takeout, Courtesy of the MPAA

The huge blackout today intended to draw more attention to the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills has infuriated organizations who have publicly come out in support of the bill. And no one is more angered by the blackout than Chris Dodd, former Connecticut senator and head of the Motion Picture Association of America. Dodd has exerted a powerful influence over the Washington debate on this issue. Having served in the Senate for a number of years, he has certainly been lobbying his former colleagues to get behind PIPA.

The MPAA is the main lobbyist for the big movie studios, which means that in a very technical sense, Dodd is speaking on behalf of companies like Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., etc. The MPAA is best known to the general public for its ratings system, arbitrarily deciding which movies are appropriate for certain audiences. But the MPAA is also very concerned with upholding copyright laws and prosecuting websites that violate copyright. So of course, the MPAA fully supports the legislation.

But that’s where the MPAA’s need to understand the bill ends. I don’t want to make a hasty generalization here, but the MPAA isn’t exactly teeming with technical experts who understand how the internet works. But that’s not their fault. This is a lobby fully committed to copyright. Preserving internet freedom is not in their interests. In fact, it may serve as a hindrance to their interests.

So what’s the solution? Well, if you’re Chris Dodd, you need to suggest a workable model for internet regulation that has been tested by other nations. No rational human being believes in absolute, total internet freedom, because only fools deal in absolutes, but the idea of government having a hand in regulating the internet disturbs a lot of people. So who does Chris Dodd take his cues from on internet censorship? None other than the country responsible for the Great Firewall.

Here’s how Dodd defended SOPA last month:

“When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn’t do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites.”

China knows how to censor the internet. You have to credit them with that. But Dodd and Lieberman sound like authoritarians of the worst kind when they suggest we look to China on how to regulate the internet. If your solution to piracy is BLOCK ALL THE THINGS, you’re doing it wrong.

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