Todays Supreme Court ruling is a step toward something Ive been predicting for many years: the filtering of Internet sites and content by some sort of “national firewall.”
After all, what value is the MGM versus Grokster ruling if all it does is make IP thieves move offshore, as many have done already?
Government has the right—even the responsibility—to see that its laws and regulations are enforced. The Internet is no exception. When the Internet is being used on American soil, it should comply with American law. And if it doesnt, then the government should be able to step in and filter the illegal sites and activities.
The controversy over file-sharing isnt the only legal battle pointing us toward Internet filtering. Americas looming fight with the World Trade Organization over Internet gambling is another example of where American law stops at our borders, while the Internet clearly doesnt.
In this case, countries that host Internet gambling sites have complained that U.S. regulation of the gaming industry is an unfair trade practice. Here the Internets world without borders runs smack-dab into governments responsibility to regulate its citizens activities, whether in person or online.
The World Trade Organization has an important role in regulating global trade. Thats a good thing, but not when it limits a member governments ability to regulate certain activities, gambling among them.
In recent columns, I have taken the Chinese government (and American companies) to task for their filtering of the Internet as delivered to residents of the communist dictatorship. How is filtering file-sharing and gambling any different?
Since gambling and stealing are not accepted as universal human rights—well, not in civilized places—I see no problem with the enforcement of U.S. laws related to gambling, file-sharing, taxes, pornography and other activities.
If “the Internet” isnt willing to abide by them, the United States has every reason to stop illegal content from reaching American citizens.
This is vastly different than the Chinese habit of filtering political, news, and religious content it sees as threatening the Beijing governments grip on power.
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers. He can be reached at email@example.com.