What is AIGA’s position on SOPA?

AIGA’s position on SOPA, the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, is that the bill in its current form should not be enacted—although we agree with the original intent of the bill, which was to protect creative property from wanton theft and piracy online. The form the legislation took in seeking to protect creative property, mainly entertainment, severely compromises principles of free speech and openness on the internet. A parallel bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), was introduced in the Senate.

AIGA is firmly against the bills in their current form; the proposed cure is even more severe than the disease. The bills aim to fight online piracy by preventing U.S.-based search engines from directing users to sites distributing stolen materials and gives content owners the ability to essentially shut down websites that they believe violate their copyright.

We didn’t send out an action alert earlier because we knew last week that the bills were not going to move legislatively: The House Republican leadership, the Democratic Senate leadership and the White House have all stated their opposition to the bills in their current form. While AIGA encourages members to communicate their opposition to the bills to their legislators, it appears the real fight will come after revised legislation is introduced in the coming session of Congress (if they get to it).

While both House majority leader Eric Cantor and Senate majority leader Harry Reid stated the need to reconsider the legislation over the weekend, the White House also made clear in its first official comment on SOPA and PIPA that it would not accept the current form of the legislation:

“Let us be clear—online piracy is a real problem that harms the American economy, threatens jobs for significant numbers of middle-class workers and hurts some of our nation’s most creative and innovative companies and entrepreneurs.”

However, the White House said it would not support legislation that “reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risks or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet.”

“Any provision covering internet intermediaries such as online advertising networks, payment processors, or search engines must be transparent and designed to prevent overly broad private rights of action that could encourage unjustified litigation that could discourage startup businesses and innovative firms from growing,” said the White House.

AIGA members are always encouraged to share their views with their legislators, although we believe that it may be more productive to comment on revised legislation that will begin to address our concerns when it is introduced. We will issue an action alert at the most effective point in the legislative process. And as always, your comments are welcome here.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.