INTERNET PIRACY – WHAT’S SO TERRIBLE ABOUT SOPA? PT2 THE PROSECUTION16 Mar 12
Ladies and Gentlemen, all rise for the honourable Judge… erm, Yourselves. Court is now in session. You’ve heard from the defence (me), so let’s welcome the chief prosecutor (me again; sorry).
“OK let’s get this straight, I’m not here to defend piracy. On the contrary, I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of copyright. I’m here to tell you why SOPA is so fundamentally flawed that it risks compromising not only the freedom of expression of the individual, but also the very existence of the kind of modern, dynamic businesses that are vital in this new economy. I’m here to tell you why another way must be found.
“Before getting neck deep in the really scary, dystopian swamp of subterfuge, let’s tread surefootedly through the blatant flaws in the act related to its primary purpose. It’s yet another case of reactionary, blanket measures in response to a specific threat; the bill has as much precision as rooting out the bad eggs by bulldozing the barn. The chief folly in this lazy legislation is the principal that “the site” is responsible for all of its content. Considering the current proliferation of user generated sites, this makes half the internet liable for shutting down. Sites such as Youtube, Facebook, Flickr and Vimeo all would regularly breach the legislation and run the risk of being shut down if the letter of the law were to apply. The difficulty of such sites’ ability to police themselves appropriately should be obvious to all; if half the world is on facebook, you’d need the other half to police it!
“Now let’s move onto swampier, murkier ground. I may have given the impression that this bill as subtle as a clown at a funeral, but I should give it more credit. In fact, parts of it are positively machiavellian in their shadowy purposes to keep the lawmakers hands clean, while leaning heavily behind the scenes on ISPs and intermediaries to do the dirty work. The “vigilante position” allows significant immunity for ISPs, if they are willing to “overblock” – potentially blacklisting innocent users. This government sponsored protection racket empowers ISPs to act on their own discretion, effectively without any legal oversight at all. One day you might just wake up with your website blocked, without even having to be found guilty of anything!
“So now we find ourselves really bogged down in the mire, and as promised, here comes the really insidious stuff. The stuff that doesn’t get talked about by the guys pushing the bill – they’re happily hiding behind the copyright issue as a distraction from what many would argue is the real purpose of the bill – quashing dissent.
“Governments are beginning to understand the potential threat of the new social internet. The US may have quietly and distantly supported the Arab Spring, but they have also been nervously monitoring the Occupy movement, as well as Anonymous and even Twitter in order to gauge the potential threat posed by the online perpetuation of the idea the American Way isn’t necessarily the right way.
“Section 103 of the bill effectively states that, to be blacklisted, a Web site must be “directed” at the U.S. and also that the owner “has promoted” acts that can infringe copyright. This can be taken to mean that if the government wants a site blacklisted, for whatever reason, it shouldn’t have to look too hard to find something incriminating, especially if the site is relatively large and also contains a lot of user generated content. Too much anti U.S. sentiment on Twitter? Hey look! That guy @hoxtonhero333 just put a link to a Twin Peaks torrent. Shut it down! SHUT IT ALL DOWN!!! U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!
“Now, as I said before, I’m in no way in favour of piracy, in fact I believe it’s such an important issue that it shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen for legislation intended for an ulterior purpose. I believe that piracy should be tackled, and should be legislated against. But we need to tear up this bill and start over again.”