SOPA Is Trash

One industry. One mission. To fight the “good fight” against greedy thieves – using ANY means necessary!

From the creators of the region coded DVD disc and countless stunningly imaginative lawsuits: SOPA! Coming to all digital devices near you soon!

The entertainment industry sees copyright infrinement everywherePlease excuse the frivolities above, but I just couldn’t’ help myself. Because the Stop Online Piracy Act, and its associated pieces of legislation, is from the looks of it being pushed through the US congress rather soon and may have drastic consequences on the future development of the web.

The winners: the big players in the entertainment industry (and above all else their lawyers).

The losers: pretty much everyone else.

What’s Wrong With SOPA?

For starters, I’d like to point out that I am definitely not one of those “everything online is free” guys. In fact, in one of the first posts on this blog I wrote a rant about why I think some of the common arguments file sharers often have are somewhat lacking. If you produce some kind of product or service you deserve to get paid, it’s that simple. Whether the product in question is tangible or not is beside the point. And I definitely think that lines like “since they still have the original it isn’t stealing” is more of a tease than a constructive argument.

But this SOPA bill now being proposed is simply taking things too far.

I won’t go into all the potential dangers with passing a law like this as it is. If you’re interested Techdirt has a very good article that summarize most of the major concerns. And according to an an open letter by one of the “founding fathers” of the internet, Vint Cerf, the proposed legislation is ineffective and will even make the whole internet less secure.

Suffice to say that SOPA in its current state may cause a lot of collateral damage – not the least among online marketers and entrepreneurs.

Dude – Where’s My Site?!

Never mind the potential risks the copyright hunters will put their sights on your site directly (Ebay, Craigslist, Costco & Sears are allegedly among those being labeled as “rogue sites”), but if you have your money site on shared hosting it could theoretically be butchered over night – even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

Because with shared hosting your site shares the IP-address with possibly hundreds of other sites. And if one of those sites, which you have absolutely no control over, are guilty according to SOPA, your legitimate sites could get blocked as well. That is another problem that absolutely must be addressed if we are to use the blunt copyright protection instrument of filtering out sites on the DNS level.

Comfortably Dumb

Money for nothing - what a great business idea. Oh, wait...I have admittedly not spent a huge amount of time researching everything that has been said about SOPA. But on the surface it appears that it is a somewhat polarized discussion with “do you really want guys like Justin Bieber in jail” on one side and “this is just for going after sites like PirateBay and not ordinary people” on the other.

While I sincerely doubt that companies will start going after teenagers singing or playing popular songs on Youtube (they may have a go at Youtube itself though!), I don’t find it very reassuring that “common sense” would somehow see to it that SOPA is enforced in lenient way.

Because we should remember who we are dealing with here. The entertainment industry has fought everything from the cassette tape to the DVR every step of the way. In my part of the world we still pay a ridiculous private copying levy on everything from recordable DVDs to external hard drives – even if you where to put zero copyrighted content on them. According to a quote at the end of the Techdirt article mentioned above, they even consider it theft if you record a tv-show and fast forward the commercials when you watch it! Since they already have chicks for free I guess they had to invent ways of getting money for nothing as well…

Furthermore, if there is more than one way to interpret a law, even through the tiniest of loopholes, there’s certainly a lawyer willing to go to court over it. And as many intelligent people have pointed out, SOPA in its current form is so vaguely worded that it can be interpreted almost whichever way you want.

Currently it is really not possible to say who will end up going to trial and for what. Anyone who tells you differently are either a lobbyist or a fortune teller. But to count on for profit companies to miss a chance to score some easy cash out of the goodness of their hearts seems (particularly given their track record) outright gullible.

Forget About The Price Tag

While I’m still very much against pirated products, my thinking has changed somewhat since that post on file sharing I wrote a few years back. While “technological advances” is still not any excuse for stealing stuff, it seems clear that the entertainment giants will have to change or die.

A greedy "character"Turning the internet into a global police state just so that select companies can do business as usual is simply not the answer. Particularly if it means taking out outher businesses and individuals left and right without any real evidence or due process. Quite frankly, the only thing such a suggestion shows is that the person(s) making it haven’t understood anything about the internet. The online economy offers huge economic potential to (theoretically) everyone, and if some particular group fail to take advantage of this they shouldn’t be allowed to make up for it by “partnering” with a bunch of eager trial lawyers.

Suing sites that exist solely for the purpose of transmitting pirated content is okay of course. But going for “everything that enables infringement” is to use nuclear bombs for swatting flies.

Although I haven’t done the math I’m pretty sure that shutting down online businesses and startups through SOPA would have a way bigger negative impact on the economy than what the entertainment industry is losing through online piracy. And who really creates more jobs for “the average US citizen” – Hollywood or online businesses?

And on top of all that, even if SOPA is pushed through as it is, it probably won’t be able to do much about online piracy in the first place. For those who so desire, there will always be ways to go around any and all forms of copy protection.

Actually I think the best thing about this bill is that, to a Swedish speaking individual, it has a rather suitable acronym. If you say that someone is a “sopa” in Swedish, it quite literally means that they’re trash.

And that’s where SOPA belongs – in the trash can.


Photo credits (thanks to the creative commons  goodness of the following Flickr photographers): Jacob Burke (cassette), Tim Ellis (free cash) and Gregory Veen (“greedy character”)

2 Responses to “SOPA Is Trash”

  1. Laurent says:

    Many people say the real ‘danger’ is not SOPA but the other one called ACTA. What do you think about it? And there is a group who claims for anonymousity, who are these geeks who act as if they were heros? And what are their hidden agenda? It’s all confusing me.

  2. Mike says:

    ACTA is in many regards a very similar (and poorly designed) piece of legislation yes. As for anonymity, I am not sure what group you are talking about. Think about it this way: who would you rather trust on these issues – those “geeks” who invented the web (like Tim Berners-Lee) or those who refer to the internet as “a series of tubes” and are willing to push extraordinarily draconian legislation for instances of copyright infringement that are ridiculous to begin with?

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