Take your SOPA and stick it up your PIPA

Today is blackout Wednesday. Many sites are blocking content, or blocking entire sites altogether. Places like Wikipedia and WordPress and Reddit are all blacked out today. Others like Google are blacking out logos but still providing the services. (BTW, those sites are really not completely blacked out, from what I have seen, it is just the main page). Which leads to the arguments of what exactly is SOPA and PIPA, and why do they exist, and how will that affect the individual.

First off, lets get into what Thomas.loc.gov to get each bill sorted.

SOPA, H.R.3261.IH: H.R.3261 — Stop Online Piracy Act (Introduced in House – IH)
According to the bill and the definition, it is to stop foreign online piracy attempts that are directed towards the United States.

PIPA, S. 968 RS: ‘Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011’ or the ‘PROTECT IP Act of 2011’
To prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes.

One of the bills, (H.R.3261) is the House bill, and the other (S. 968) is the Senate bill. The Senate version (PIPA) has been around longer, and is not quite as severe as the House bill (SOPA). However, when one looks at both bills, it is like asking if you would prefer permanent violent diarrhea over daily kicks in the groin with a steel-toed boot.

Both bills seem to serve a good purpose, protecting intellectual property and content protection are very important. The way these bills are attempting to do this, however, is not the correct way. It is making criminals out of everyone, and basically turning the Constitution of the United States of America on its head by now proclaiming that one is guilty until proven innocent. I encourage everyone to read both bills, even if you do not understand the legal-speak in these bills, it is important to familiarize yourself with the bill. I posted links to both bills above. And as I go through my thoughts, I will also link other sites that I read about the bills.

First, I want to express why I am adamantly against the bill in principle as a United States citizen. I love the Constitution and feel this country has strayed too far from the Constitution. I am not going to get all political about the destruction of this country by the greed of both parties, but I am going to focus this solely on the bills themselves. In one section of SOPA, section 103.5.ii it states:

In the case of an Internet site specified in the notification under paragraph (4) that is a foreign Internet site, a statement that the owner or operator, or registrant, consents to the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States, and will accept service of process from the person who provided notification under paragraph (4), or an agent of such person, for purposes of adjudicating whether the site is an Internet site dedicated to theft of U.S. property under this section.

This quoted section troubles me, because the United States is effectively telling other countries that it no longer will recognize their sovereignty and will go after individuals in their country without regard. if a site in another country is doing bad things, the US is wanting to throw out all international laws/agreements and will trample other countries’ right to rule as they see fit. How arrogant is this? In order for any website owner to challenge any accusations, they have to agree to be subject to US Jurisdiction. Now just what do you think the US would do if another country, say Iran pulled this type power play on US Citizens?

Second, why is Congress trying to criminalize the internet? These challenges only happen after action has been taken on the website owners. In an article by Brian Proffit on the site IT World, titled SOPA sponsors deride criticisms as ‘myths’, he examines the SOPA bill and points out some very crucial pieces of the bill. These are what I would consider grossly un-Constitutional. Once a site has been targeted as a “rogue” site, then it has five days to be removed. In his words:

A copyright holder need only accuse a website of infringement, and the search engine, advertisement, and payment system would be cut off in five days. The DNS filtering would still need the involvement of the Department of Justice to get a court order, but again, there would be no need to prove anything to obtain such an order from a judge.

So all that is needed is an accusation, and sites can be taken away from searches, ads, etc with no requirement to provide legal proof. And according to this bill, the only way a website owner may find this out is when the ad revenue no longer comes in, which could take up to three weeks. Again, this is against the very basics of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Site owners have no legal ability to block these accusations, as all it takes is an accusation with no legal cause, or no litigation with due process. This is one of those ideas that the Founding Fathers fought, bled and died for.

OK, two big major reasons that I do not support this bill, and we have not even touched the technical aspect of this bill. And I know we are kind of ignoring PIPA, but SOPA is such a drain that it deserves this level of scrutiny. The next great article I encourage everyone to read, is by Mashable’s Chief Architect, Chris Heald. The article, titled Why SOPA Is Dangerous examines the different technical aspects of this bill, and why it is bad. Heald does a great job conveying the point, and I strongly suggest you read through the entire article. Some main points that I agree with in the article:

  • Section 102.a.2 allows the US Attorney General (AG) to go after any foreign site that facilitates infringement. Comment boxes facilitate infringement. Furthermore, if the US government is not liking any foreign site, like Wikilinks, they now have the power to effectively shut it off to any US address.
  • Section 103 allows for the definition to be so broad that any site that allows user submission of content can be defined as one facilitating and enabling copyright violation. Imagine some of the most popular sites, like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even StumbleUpon all become potential targets. It does not matter if you take it down, if you as a web site owner are not actively screening content for copyright violations, you can be liable.
  • Any site that is possibly infringing and already taken down now has to deal with likely loss of ad revenue, search placements, payment portals, etc. Not to mention any legal fees that are associated with recovering any lost time or availability. Now the government is going to tell non-government entities how to run their businesses when it comes to content protection. Never mind that the government still has no clue about technology to begin with, and most people in Congress today still do not know there is no “any” key.
  • The most troubling section is the one entitled “The Bulldozer”. I highly suggest everyone read this section and really take it in. If anyone thinks this will not happen, they need to remember that the RIAA went after a family with no computer, people who had no internet, or dead people or when they went after a 12 year old girl for using Kazaa

Another good article on the reasons these bills are not worth the trouble is from Paul Rosenzweig of the Heritage Foundation. In this article he states:

Adding to their other problems, SOPA and PIPA simply would not work. Even if the Attorney General obtained a blocking order that stopped Verizon from letting one go directly to a pirate website, it is relatively easy to work around the block. We can reasonably predict that a host of redirector domains would soon spring up, many of them linked to ISPs outside the United States and outside the Attorney General’s jurisdiction. And after that, there would be downloadable program applications to get to those redirectors. Indeed, one such program, known as “DeSOPA,” has already been developed and deployed as a proof of concept effort and can be downloaded as a Mozilla Firefox extension.

Would this really make you feel safe online?

The last source I used was a blog from Washington Post. The author, Brad Plumer, writes of five reasons these bills are being protested. Even if they do not do DNS blocking, it still limits free speech, it causes a huge overhead on free services now, no legal oversight on taking sites down, and most importantly, copyright owners already have the power to take down sites. From the blog post:

Copyright holders such as the the record and movie industries currently have the legal authority to force sites to remove infringing material under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice-and-takedown procedures. Now, the content industry says that it doesn’t have nearly enough weapons — every time it cracks down on a pirate site, five more appear in its place. But, if anything, there’s a case that the content industry currently has too much power. The Justice Department has often proven over-aggressive in taking down domain names — read, for instance, the gory details of the Justice Department’s botched attack on Dajaz1.org, a music blog that was taken down for a year after being falsely accused of infringement.

They already have the power, and they have abused it. And it is important to read the gory details as another example of how this power has already been over-stepped. And Congress wants to give them more power? I think it is important to quote parts of that article from Tech Dirt and author Mike Masnick:

ICE’s “investigation” was done by a technically inept recent college grad, who didn’t even seem to understand the basics of the technology. But it didn’t stop him from going to a judge and asking for a site to be completely censored with no due process . . .

evidence showing that the songs that ICE used in its affidavit as “evidence” of criminal copyright infringement were songs sent by representatives of the copyright holder with the request that the site publicize the works — in one case, even coming from a VP at a major music label. Even worse, about the only evidence that ICE had that these songs were infringing was the word of the “VP of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs for the RIAA,” Carlos Linares, who was simply not in a position to know if the songs were infringing or authorized. In fact, one of the songs involved an artist not even represented by an RIAA label, and Linares clearly had absolutely no right to speak on behalf of that artist . . .

After continuing to stall and refusing to respond to Dajaz1’s filing requesting the domain be returned, the government told Dajaz1’s lawyer, Andrew P. Bridges, that it would begin forfeiture procedures . . .
the deadline for the government to file for forfeiture came and went and nothing apparently happened. Absolutely nothing. Bridges contacted the government to ask what was going on, and was told that the government had received an extension from the court . . .
He also asked for a copy of the the court’s order allowing the extension. The government told him no and that the extension was filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

He asked for the motion papers asking for the extension. The government told him no and that the papers were filed under seal and could not be released, even in redacted form.

He again asked whether he would be notified about further filings for extensions. The government told him no.

He then asked the US attorney to inform the court that, if the government made another request for an extension, the domain owner opposed the extension and would like the opportunity to be heard. The government would not agree.

After all of the examples of the government and certain entities’ egregious examples of over-stepping and abusing authority, Congress thinks that they should have more power, and with less legal oversight? Content protection is important, and we need to find a way that can protect content but not stifle creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation the internet has provided. These bills are very wrong, and do nothing to help curb content piracy.

Please take some time, read through the articles I posted. Comment if you feel I am wrong. Comment if you agree. Comment because it is a right you have, to speak freely. SOPA and PIPA are not solutions, they are problems. They create more problems. Some sites are “black” today in protest to SOPA and PIPA. Do not let Congress get away with this power grab. Read up on the bills, read up on the positions for and against. Form your own opinion and create your own voice. Do not let anyone ever take away your voice. SOPA and PIPA are looking to do exactly that.