Dec 23, 2014 · 2 minutes


Advocacy groups are stepping up their efforts to prevent Attorneys General from reviving parts of the Stop Online Piracy Act on a state level. The groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, and Engine Advocacy, have written a letter to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who is working with the Motion Picture Association of America to implement parts of SOPA in his state.

"SOPA was a bad idea at the federal level," the letter says. "And any SOPA revival on a state level is an equally bad idea that, we are confident, will be equally unacceptable to the public."

That would be bad news for Hood. The Internet's reaction to SOPA was fierce, and unlike other legislation relating to the Internet, it prompted people to march in the streets or call representatives to demand the controversial bill be killed and buried.

This letter is emblematic of the mounting backlash to those efforts, which would see state lawmakers attack the fundamental nature of the Internet -- including the Domain Name System (DNS) that allows it to function -- to help film studios and other copyright holders prevent pirated copies of their intellectual property from being shared online.

As the EFF explained Friday, after news of the MPAA's efforts reached a tipping point:

[T]he real target is the open Internet, which depends on free and uncensored platforms to survive. Any campaign to censor the Internet is cause for concern—and a secret one is all the more so. The public has clearly and unambiguously denounced the SOPA effort; it's shameful to see its backers try to revive its goals by dodging the scrutiny of the democratic process.
The MPAA hasn't taken all this criticism lying down. In response to a post from Google's general counsel, the group said the company shouldn't try to block the states' efforts because it "[enables] and [facilitates] illegal conduct — including illicit drug purchases, human trafficking and fraudulent documents as well as theft of intellectual property."

I took issue with the MPAA's statement. It's all too similar to the deflective rhetoric used by intelligence agencies to defend their widespread surveillance programs, or by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protest increasingly powerful privacy tools. I wrote:

Here’s a thought: if your organization has to resort to the same tactics used to justify the warrantless spying on millions of people or efforts to undo some of the most significant security updates in recent history, you’re probably making the wrong argument. The MPAA might not realize that, but anyone who hears its rhetoric should keep it in mind.
Let's hope for the Internet's sake the groups that sent this letter aren't the only ones to see through the MPAA's bull.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]