By now, everyone should have heard of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two bill the US Congress wish to pass. The short version of these bills are as follows:


If SOPA passes, then it means that user-driven sites like YouTube, Facebook or even Wikipedia would effectively be rendered useless. While this bill had the intentions of “stopping online piracy” (hence, then name) what it would really do it hold the domain owners accountable to not host links to copyrighted content. Let’s look at an example.

Currently, user-driven social sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, tumbler and even Twitter have their users sharing content and information by sharing links to content on other parts of the web. If one of these sites were to be served with a “take down” notice for some piece of content, not only would they need to scrub all content ever posted that contained a link to the domain cited in the notice but they would have to put in place some means for any and all future content to disallow that domain.

This is entirely unreasonable from a system administration standpoint since it would place tremendous strain on the technological infrastructure of these sites (and most of the Internet, IMHO).


The current Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it so that when copyrighted content is uploaded to a site like YouTube (for example) the user that uploaded the content is held accountable. In the case of YouTube, I believe this usually entails an account lockout or ban. The point here is that the user was at fault and once YouTube became aware of the situation, the user was punished in some way.

If PIPA were to pass, then the blame would now be placed on YouTube for hosting the content. If the infringement was deemed severe enough, the domain could be seized. This approach is akin to closing an entire bank chain because at one branch, in one safety deposit box, there was some illegal material. This is radical, extreme and would destroy the very Internet we know and love.

Who opposes SOPA/PIPA?

Let’s name a few of the companies/organizarions that are openly opposed to the SOPA/PIPA bills:

While we’re not all American, we can and would suffer for the mistakes that their congress could make. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) released a statement calling the collective outcry by entirety of the Internet a “stunt” saying that “A so-called ‘blackout’ is yet another gimmick.”

In cases like this, where the MPAA is pushing hard for something to be done against piracy, they act as is all these other organizations don’t want to stop piracy. That’s not the case. Wikipedia did a fantastic job of showing their users what the Internet could look like if such extreme measures as SOPA/PIPA were to come into effect .

Any bill that throws due process to the wind, eliminates the concept of fair use, and seeks to change the fundamental architecture of the web will do nothing but destroy the things that make the Internet so valuable and unique. Technology is cheap and the criminals in this instance are smarter than the lawmakers; just like with DRM it will not affect the people breaking the law, and will instead come down hardest on honest consumers.

The DMCA was bad enough (e.g. people’s home videos getting scrubbed from the web because they had a radio playing in the background); things like SOPA and PIPA will go a step further and block all the domains on which said home video was hosted.

Any website that allows users to upload content without an approval process will fall under the definition of “facilitating copyright infringement.” Any website that automatically collects links without an approval process will fall under the definition of “facilitating copyright infringement” – all search engines, basically.

They at least removed the most ridiculous bits (DNS and ISP involvement), but what still remains is both hilariously naive and frighteningly Orwellian.



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