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Law Professors React To PIPA, SOPA Legislation

Publication Date: 
January 13, 2012
The Stanford Daily
Kristian Davis Bailey

Lecturer Anthony Falzone and Professor Mark Lemley both provided Stanford Daily's Kristian David Bailey with their thoughts on the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being considered by Congress. ,/p> Congress is expected to consider two bills when it returns from recess on Jan. 24: the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The legislation is of major concern to Stanford thought leaders, in addition to nationwide legal experts, online security experts, Internet activists and the founders of many of Silicon Valley’s largest companies.

"The answer is to innovate, not to pass stupid laws that are going to screw up the Internet,” said Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society (SCIS) at a Dec. 7 event hosted by SCIS called, "What's wrong with SOPA?" The panel convened experts on Internet infrastructure and security, digital intellectual property and Silicon Valley business to articulate many of SOPA's problems.

More than 150 people attended the Law School event, which was “not meant to give equal time to both sides,” according to Falzone. The audience did include two representatives from the Motion Picture Association of America, supporters of SOPA and PIPA, who spoke up during a question and answer session.

"There were things about this bill that people in Silicon Valley needed to know – that is lawyers, entrepreneurs and technology people," Falzone said. "Our goal was to put together an array of people who could speak to each one of those sets of considerations."

Professor Mark Lemley, director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, spoke in a January interview with The Daily of the necessity of publicizing what he characterized as the incredible harm of this potential legislation.

"PIPA was introduced in the Senate in early 2011 and it went through the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously… mostly I think because people hadn’t paid attention to it," Lemley said.

Lemley believes this unanimous action occurred because PIPA was a less extreme bill than SOPA – a conscious legislative decision to make the "lesser of two evils" look like a healthy compromise.


"If we just shut down the Internet there would be a lot less piracy, right?" Lemley said. "But, there is a lot of socially valuable material that we get only because of the Internet."


"You wouldn’t necessarily even bring anybody into court," Lemley said. "So each individual ISP who gets this notice has now got to keep a separate black list."

Falzone said he fears a world in which websites could be shut down, "in a completely invisible way."

"You would have people doing these deals in the proverbial smoky backroom… picking up the phone and saying, 'Wouldn’t it be so unpleasant if we had to go through an elaborate process and spend money on lawyers?'" Falzone said.


For Lemley, the physical blocking of websites has foreign policy ramifications as well.

"It's awfully hard to persuade the Chinas and Irans of the world that they should open their society and Internet to things they object to when we won’t open our society to things we object to," Lemley said.


Falzone predicts that what Congress will ultimately pass will be similar to the OPEN Act and not SOPA. Falzone also said he foresees a more prolonged battle.

"Silicon Valley has now really thrown their weight behind [opposing SOPA & PIPA], and it is a real fight… everybody has brought their big guns."