I am a lawyer but I am not necessarily in touch with the text that comprises the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it’s complementary Protect IP Act (PIPA). But, in a nutshell, here is why it is such a bad piece of legislation.
There are many terms within the bill that are either undefined or are unclearly defined. Among the important term that is questionably defined is “Internet Search Engine.” That is defined as a site that provides a link based on a user-entered query. I believe that this and most other blogs could be defined as such. The reason why this is important will become apparent later.
- It lacks the necessary sophistication
Among its stated purposes is the elimination of “foreign” sites which primarily function to infringe on copyrights. The legislation fails to recognize that many, many websites have both domestic features and foreign components. For example, Jason Harvey of reddit.com explains how reddit is structured.
reddit’s primary servers are located in Virginia, however we have domain names through foreign registrars (redd.it, reddit.co.uk). The site is hosted via a third-party content-delivery network (Akamai). This means that if you connect to reddit from a foreign country, you are likely connecting to an Akamai server not located in the U.S. This legislation naively ignores this complexity, and simply labels a site ‘foreign’ or ‘domestic’ based solely on the domain name.
- It places an unreasonable burden on websites while offering very little in actual piracy prevention.
The way it is designed to work is simple. Stake holders identify infringing websites and the websites that link to them. The stake holders issue demands to linking websites to remove all links to the infringing website, but does nothing in the way of taking down the infringing website. The intent is apparently meant to cut off the traffic to the pirate website but not really attack the pirate himself. It is like erecting an orange party fence around the driveway to a meth lab with the intent of keeping people out but leaving the meth lab, as well as the back yard, unguarded. It has no hope of accomplishing its stated goal. Ironically part of the reason that it will fail to prevent piracy is the fault of the US Government itself. In an effort to make sure citizens of repressive regimes have unfiltered internet access, the US has built a system that can do and end run around domestic filters.
- User directed sites will suffer specifically and the internet as a whole generally.
While this website is certainly not anywhere near the level of user- direction I would like it to be, it still is somewhat user directed. Other sites like YouTube, Wikipedia and reddit are entirely user directed and bear a huge burden should a poster link to an infringing website. SOPA will attempt to censor those sites by determining which sites must be blocked. This is government intrusion at a level that none of us should be comforted by. Again, note that the burden is on the linker and not the actual infringing site. In fact, the act of posting a link under the act may considered a crime punishable by prison time.
Again, here’s Mr. Harvey,
If the Attorney General served reddit with an order to remove links to a domain, we would be required to scrub every post and comment on the site containing the domain and censor the links out, even if the specific link contained no infringing content. We would also need to implement a system to automatically censor the domain from any future posts or comments. This places a measurable burden upon the site’s technical infrastructure. It also damages one of the most important tenets of reddit, and the internet as a whole – free and open discussion about whatever the fuck you want.
Again, please show your disdain by contacting your Senators. Debate on the floor of the Senate is scheduled for Jan 24.