Boston.com Supports SOPA, a rant on SOPA

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 | Business | by

US Great SealFor those of you who don’t know what SOPA is, it’s the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) introduced in the House of Representatives by Lamar Smith (R-TX).

I just saw that Boston.com has an article posted on December 26, 2011 titled Removing the legal eye patch, announcing why it is in support of SOPA.  Their main argument is that law enforcement needs more tools to stop piracy, and is summarized in this paragraph:

The Stop Online Piracy Act currently before Congress would finally give law enforcement the tools to crack down on the websites that enable Internet piracy. Currently, one can use Google to quickly jump to a site that offers pirated HBO shows or bootlegs of the latest hit album, or go on YouTube and watch television shows or music videos uploaded illegally, actions for which neither website faces repercussions. (YouTube has a policy against posting pirated material, but no legal obligation to police its site.)

Over the past few months, activists on the internet (most prominently on Reddit, Reddit Targets Alleged SOPA Supporters) have been voicing serious concern over this bill.  The concern isn’t over protecting piracy (although I’m sure some are hoping to protect that0.  The major concern is over the way in which the bill was put together.

The most dangerous parts of this bill, are sections that force website owners to be responsible for the content published by it’s users.  Site’s like Google’s YouTube, Facebook, and almost any other site that allows user submitted content would essentially have to shut down.

SOPA also utilizes ineffective techniques for enforcing it’s rules and regulations.  Because the people who wrote the bill did not have a full understanding of what they were writing, the bill is not aimed at pirates, it’s aimed at legitimate sites.  All an effective pirate has to do is setup an alternative DNS server (web users have been preparing for this bill, and are already using alternative DNS servers), and they are immune to the power of this bill.

The firepower of SOPA, intended for pirates, will essentially land on web properties.  The bill is almost undeniably bought by the content creators (RIAA, MPAA, and other favorites who aren’t willing to adapt to the new internet distribution world).  Apple embraced MP3s, Apple dropped DRM, and somehow, they are  among the most valuable (if not, THE most valuable) companies in the world.  The punishment that content creators wanted to hit pirates with will be ineffective, and will make life tough/impossible for some fundamental internet companies.

With regard to the higher level objections of censorship on the internet, I somewhat agree with those too.  No single nation (not even the United States) should decide they can prevent their citizens from accessing the internet.  We would be worse than China if we made this move (at least their government supports their internal internet economy).

Finally … why can’t legislators / lawyers / judges understand … because we own the sites, doesn’t mean we control what is up there.  It’s exactly like a bar.  A bar owns the space inside / outside, but can’t control any crimes committed on it’s premises.  They can only report a crime, or help law enforcement when asked (which is reasonable).  It wouldn’t be logical to find out a pirated movie taping was handed over to a distributor while eating at McDonalds — then prosecute McDonalds!  It’s the same thing.

Boston.com (owned by The New York Times) reveals their inadequate knowledge by saying:

While opponents of the bill cry censorship, their fears seem to based on the belief that it somehow creates a slippery slope – that blocking an illegal download of an Adele album will be logically followed by blocking a search for information about the Arab Spring. The government already has cracked down on online child pornography without a corresponding attack on civil liberties. There’s no reason that the First Amendment would be endangered if the Justice Department beefed up its enforcement of copyright law as well.

NO!  We aren’t worried information about Arab Spring will be blocked (although that is a concern).  We are concerned that the bill is ineffective, and misguided.  It was written by folks who don’t understand what they are talking about.  When most of your major tech companies don’t support a tech bill, you should think twice about it (besides the one’s in the pockets of content production).

We are worried about what I listed above:

  1. The bill is ineffective against the real targets.
  2. The bill incorrectly places ownership of transgressions on the property owners, and not those that committed the transgression.
  3. The bill will essentially shut down the internet as we know it today.

What needs to happen to fix this?

We live in a capitalistic democracy.  Business models must adapt to the wants / needs of the people.  Laws must be written to protect the interest of the general public.  If a company’s business model doesn’t work because people fight it, the company must modify it’s business model.  A company shouldn’t push legislation to protect it’s business model.  Laws are to protect THE PEOPLE.

The bill, which shouldn’t even exist, should setup an agency that monitors these sites for transgressions and notifies the site owners.  Site owners should be required to help take down the offending content in a reasonable period of time.  Any site who’s business model focuses on pirated content will be easy to target.  If a company doesn’t help the said organization, a charge of Obstruction of Justice must be tried in a court of law.  This fits within our current legal framework (from my basic understanding of law, please correct me), and is how this nation is meant to operate.

What the government needs is people who understand the internet, how it works, and how piracy works.  They need to understand how we can identify the people involved and target those networks.  We can’t have laws that limit technical innovation written by those who don’t understand it (while under the disguise of protecting jobs).

I’m a fan of the United States, and want to preserve the ideals under which it was founded — freedom.

Please discuss here.

 

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