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SOPA & PIPA
1.       si++
3785 posts
 21 Jan 2012 Sat 08:11 pm

 

The battle over Internet piracy and the heavy-handed, misguided attempts to curtail it, namely the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), have gone mainstream. Users hitting Google´s search page see a censored logo. Wikipedia has gone further by taking its entire English site offline, presenting users instead with a lengthy lesson on why the organization feels SOPA and PIPA are dire threats to individual liberty and the Internet itself. At the moment, it seems hard to believe either bill has a chance of passing, but as public as these demonstrations are, it would be a mistake to think the bills are dead.

In all fairness, we should admit that SOPA has changed over the last few weeks. One of the most aggressive measures, a clause altering DNS rules to block access to the sites, has been removed. Thing is, it is still part of its Senate version called PIPA, which will come up for debate later this month. DNS blocking would force U.S. carriers to hide Web sites, at home or abroad, that a judge deems in violation of copyright. The general idea is to limit piracy by limiting access to the sites.

There are three things wrong with this approach.

First, it isn´t the government´s role to limit access to Web sites any more than it is their role to decide what books I read, what movies I watch, or to which magazines I subscribe. First Amendment rights protect the free and open exchange of ideas, in any media. That said, once you have said—or shared—what you want, you should be held accountable. You can yell fire in a crowded theater, but expect to face jail time for it. Hold users liable, not their ISP, search engine, or blog.

Second, it puts the burden of tracking, recording, and enforcing copyright law on carriers, social media sites, and other Internet companies. There is a huge amount of overhead and cost here, not to mention legal liability. Could Ben Huh have launched a site like Icanhascheezburger.com if he had to ensure every image and link users posted was legal? He says no. Would YouTube exist if the MPAA had the option of going to a judge, getting a court order, and taking it offline five years ago? You know, before it had lobbyists?

Under current law, YouTube already takes down anything that is questioned by movie studios, TV networks, record labels, and any other content provider. Even if it is a video of your baby dancing to Prince´s "Let´s Go Crazy." That is accountability, not pre-emptive blocking.

Third, blocking sites simply won´t stop piracy. DNS blocking is a fair way to prevent most users from getting to a particular Web site, but it won´t slow pirates down much. Pirate sites can change names in hours and anyone with a modicum of tech knowledge can type in an IP address manually. Files can be traded in chat rooms or on cloud-based storage sites. The only sites that bills like SOPA and PIPA can really hurt are the legitimate ones and the only people they can block are average consumers.

Finally, I question the need for these bills at all. Piracy is bad, sure, but what is the real evidence of harm here? The MPAA says piracy is costing the industry thousands of jobs. I say, prove it. The movie studios are having banner years, as are many of the TV networks. Even Blu-ray sales are bouncing back.

The industries pushing SOPA and PIPA aren´t about protecting jobs, they are about protecting revenue.

But should we delist the offending sites from the Internet by blocking their DNS addresses? Should we eliminate the account of every Twitter user that tweets a link to the copyrighted material? Should we take down Digg and Reddit because their sites won´t allow for constant policing of their users? Not a chance.

SOPA and PIPA are the wrong solutions to poorly understood problems.

We can do better.

 

Source: here

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