Rep. Zoe Lofgren asks Reddit for help with her latest bill

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who last December begged users of social news site Reddit to help fight the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress, came back Monday to ask for their help: What would an ideal bill that’s devoted to seizing websites that repeatedly infringe copyright actually look like?

Lofgren, who recently was reelected to her ninth term to represent the San Jose area, is most remembered her from her Ask Me Anything session a month before the site led the massive Internet blackout that led to SOPA’s defeat in January. Her Reddit account has been mostly silent since then, until this unusual request. After all, who wants to help the government seize entire websites? (Which it does, sometimes dramatically, though it’s not common.)

The question, which Lofgren addressed to Reddit’s “Internet policy experts and free speech warriors,” “does not mean I accept the practice as legal or Constitutional,” she wrote on her website. “Nonetheless, since these seizure actions are occurring, I thought it worthwhile to explore a legislative means providing appropriate protections for free expression and due process,” she wrote.

Submitted to Reddit’s politics subreddit, which has more than 2 million subscribers, Lofgren’s question didn’t cause a huge stir. And while some redditors were less than helpful, a number came up with creative ways to make such a system as friendly as possible. In short, they argued, there should be punishments for falsely claiming that another site is hosting your copyrighted material—something that isn’t currently illegal under U.S. law.

“There need to be severe penalties for false takedowns,” wrote jupiterkansas in the most-upvoted post. “And the penalties need to be enforced vigorously so that innocent people are protected.”

“the real scale should be somewhat logarithmic,” minibeardeath added, “so that after a few hundred claims, the fees are $10,000+.”

“I support the idea of notifying site owners of any possible violations and allow them to be corrected in a specified amount of time before any action is taken,” wrote BettyDevi.

“I think its only fair that it should remain innocent until proven guilty,” wrote jonas3d. “In any case, seizing the domain should be the absolute FINAL step. For any eCommerce site, their domain is their biggest asset. Take amazon for instance. if you seized their domain, they would be severely crippled.”

A number of users suggested that domain name seizures, which are legal through 2008’s PRO-IP Act, shouldn’t exist at all.

“I understand that many feel that eliminating the Pro Ip Act would be a better solution,” Lofgren wrote on Reddit. “I voted against the Pro Ip Act but the vote was 410 yes to 11 no in the House and I do not believe it is likely the act will be repealed any time soon.”

But maybe a Reddit-inspired law will mitigate it somewhat.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Kevin Collier

Kevin Collier

A former senior politics reporter for the Daily Dot, Kevin Collier focuses on privacy, cybersecurity, and issues of importance to the open internet. Since leaving the Daily Dot in March 2016, he has served as a reporter for Vocativ and a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed.