Today is the day kids have to read books to do their homework. But seriously, SOPA and PIPA, bills being considered by the U.S. Congress could have far reaching implications for anyone who puts content online. It’s really going to hurt the U.S. economy and by extension any country that exports into that country. If you live outside the U.S. many of the websites you use every day will be affected by this law, and if a non U.S. website is blocked then they could lose significant website traffic and suffer financially.
Boing Boing could never co-exist with a SOPA world: we could not ever link to another website unless we were sure that no links to anything that infringes copyright appeared on that site. So in order to link to a URL on LiveJournal or WordPress or Twitter or Blogspot, we’d have to first confirm that no one had ever made an infringing link, anywhere on that site. Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren’t in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits.
In related news, EMI Ireland threatened to sue the Irish Government for not doing enough to stop copyright violations. Legislation is due this month but I haven’t heard anything in the news since. One wonders how they’ll deal with this ruling by the Court of Justice (thanks ILUG):
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered a landmark case for protecting free speech in the fight against online piracy. In a decision issued today on the Scarlet Extended SA v SABAM case, the Court stated that web filtering systems used to prevent illegal downloading on peer-to-peer networks was incompatible with fundamental human rights.
Here’s a great examination of SOPA and PIPA by Reddit sysadmin Jason Harvey. It’s lengthy but here are a few snippets:
Facilitation of criminal violations
The potential for abuse in this language is painfully obvious. “Facilitation” can often be argued as simply teaching or demonstrating how to do something. Under this definition, a site could be targeted for something as simple as describing how to rip a Blu-Ray. This language also makes it clear that the legislation is not solely targeting sites “dedicated to theft”.
If the Attorney General served reddit with an order to remove links to a domain, we would be required to scrub every post and comment on the site containing the domain and censor the links out, even if the specific link contained no infringing content. We would also need to implement a system to automatically censor the domain from any future posts or comments. This places a measurable burden upon the site’s technical infrastructure. It also damages one of the most important tenets of reddit, and the internet as a whole – free and open discussion about whatever the fuck you want.
Why this doesn’t actually stop piracy
This legislation is aimed at requiring private U.S. entities to enforce restrictions against foreign sites but does nothing against the infringement itself. All of the enforcement actions can and will be worked around by sites focused on copyright infringement. U.S. citizens will still be able to use foreign DNS servers, new advertising and payment networks will pop up overseas, and “infringing sites” will still be linked to by other foreign sites and search engines. In fact, tools used to circumvent these forms of internet restrictions are being funded by the U.S. State department to offer citizens under “repressive regimes” uncensored access to the internet. When the dust settles, piracy will still exist, and the internet in the U.S. will have entered the realm of federal regulation and censorship.