Is SOPA Unconstitutional? I Believe the Answer Is Yes.

By Jim Maisano

One of the hot issues being debated in Congress is the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA (a similar bill in the U.S. Senate is called Protect IP Act).  The internet world is waging a fierce battle against it, and I am pleased to see the opposition.

It is my view that SOPA is deeply flawed and being rushed through Congress without the proper due diligence of a substantive review.  I believe it creates a prior restraint of free speech on the internet and grants way too much power to the federal government to regulate speech and commercial activity, while eliminating rule of law safeguards to those regulated and sanctioned by the law.  I strongly urge opposition to this law as currently drafted.

I don’t deny that internet piracy is a real problem, but this law is a massively overbroad remedy to the problem.  Unfortunately, it appears to be moving quickly through both houses of Congress since it is backed by the massive money and power of the media corporate world.  The U.S. Senate vote is currently scheduled for January 24.

As an attorney, it interesting to see the concern of many law school professors about SOPA being unconstitutional.  Here is a link to the Stanford Law Review for a thoughtful article from three law professors:

The most detailed discussion of the unconstitutional nature of SOPA is from Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe:

Laurence Tribe – SOPA Unconstitutional

Professor Tribe offers a powerful argument on how this law would create a prior restraint on free speech on the internet violating the First Amendment.  I certainly agree with him.

I have been in touch with two members of Congress and will be sending a bipartisan letter as a County Legislator to New York’s two Senators and Congress members.  I will be joined by my colleague County Legislator Ken Jenkins and possibly other members of the Westchester Board of Legislators.  Please contact your Senators and Congress members and ask them to stop the rush on SOPA and request that the significant flaws in this law be immediately reviewed and addressed.  In particular, please urge them to refuse to support an unconstitutional law that would violate the First Amendment.

James Maisano, Esq.

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