[Wikimedia-l] SOPA, threat or menace (was Russian Wikipedia goes on strike)

Seth Finkelstein sethf at sethf.com
Wed Jul 11 13:18:59 UTC 2012

>>> SOPA didn't threaten the existence of Wikipedia,
>> Geoff Brigham opined otherwise, IIRC.
> Yes, on the basis that "Wikipedia arguably falls under the definition
> of an 'Internet search engine'".
> <http://blog.wikimedia.org/2011/12/13/how-sopa-will-hurt-the-free-web-and-wikipedia/>

I may regret this message, but I don't see the citation above as
actually making any (my phrase) mortal-peril claim. There is the
following statement:

"And, I will tell you, in my view, the new version of SOPA remains a
serious threat to freedom of expression on the Internet."

However, that is mere rhetoric, not a specific threat claim to Wikipedia.

Many paragraphs down, after the extensive parade of horribles, there
is the following "buried lede", which I'll quote in full to avoid
any accusation of taking out of context:

  Under the new bill, there is one significant improvement.  The new
  version exempts U.S. based companies – including the Wikimedia Foundation
  – from being subject to a litigation regime in which rights
  owners could claim that our site was an "Internet site dedicated to
  theft of U.S. property."  Such a damnation against Wikimedia could
  have easily resulted in demands to cut off our fundraising payment
  processors.   The new version now exempts U.S. sites like ours. ..."

The ending Wikipedia claim is quite vague, "endure significant burdens":

 "Wikimedia will need to endure significant burdens and expend its
 resources to comply with conceivably multiple orders, and the bill
 will deprive our readers of international content, information, and

Semi-digression - I'd take the above argument more seriously if dedicated
Wikipedia editors didn't keep making "BADSITES" proposals. There's a
very common view that Wikipedia *can* and *should* remove all links to
certain "evil" sites - but only if "evil" is defined as devoted to
*criticizing Wikipedia*, rather than devoted to copyright infringement.
I have a saying - "It's always different when it's you".

But the whole post gave me an impression of a good lawyer attempting
to reconcile the imperative of being a zealous advocate for the
interests of a client, while still remaining intellectually honest.
Yet, read carefully, it doesn't say what people seem to think was the
case. I've actually been trying to figure out, from my interest in
cognitive errors, why so many people believe that SOPA put Wikipedia
in mortal peril, when it appears to me even the Wikimedia Foundation's
own General Counsel admitted it did not.

Disclaimer: I *OPPOSE* SOPA. But I'm quite torn over what was done to
fight it, which seems to me a classic ends-vs-means moral dilemma
(i.e. of the sort - do you want to be honest, or do you want to win?).

Seth Finkelstein  Consulting Programmer  http://sethf.com
Infothought blog - http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/
Interview: http://sethf.com/essays/major/greplaw-interview.php

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