SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

Summary: The web may not be perfect, but SOPA is a reactionary bill to a broken copyright system. One thought alone: The 'broken web' is ironically what makes it work.

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The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) will starve the web of the oxygen that it needs, issue its marching orders and censor the U.S. web as we know it.

One finds it ironic as an outside observer, from a country that does not have freedom of speech as such, to a country that dubs itself the 'Land of the Free'.

And this is coming from someone who thought the Patriot Act was bad enough.

With the realisation that the SOPA may actually pass through Congress and become law, one has to question why the sudden shift from copyright-ownership powers, to powers in government; seemingly a slippery slope to China-style censorship endorsements?

The copyright system is broken, but so is the web. While one system needs reform, the latter should remain broken -- as long as the core principles of the web are adhered to.

The problem is: there are no rules of the web, only the rules of law. And, with a borderless, inter-connected network spanning all but about two countries on the planet, there will be fallout far-and-wide from this bill that threatens to bring online freedom of speech to an end.

(Image credit: ZDNet)

Maria Pallante, head of the U.S. Copyright Office, said:

"It is my view that if Congress does not continue to provide serious responses to online piracy, the U.S. copyright system will ultimately fail."

Is it that copyright, although admittedly damaging to certain industries, is being used as the excuse to instigate control over the Internet?

The Internet is more than a means of displaying information. It has exploded into a rapid, uncontrolled centre for communication, a vast network of information and data that the western community has complete access to. How long can we expect governmental structures not to try and bind its citizens?

When peer-to-peer networking first gained popular traction, particularly amongst the younger tech-savvy generations, all industries -- including entertainment and music -- had the chance to tweak their business models.

They had the opportunity to offer better value for money to their customers, who instead of waiting for staggered global release dates and the cost of $16.99 for a CD were suddenly able to share and download the same product within minutes for free.

No wonder it caught on.

Instead of changing with the times, the industries instead focused their efforts on trying to squash the insurgence. They tried the 'sacrificial goat approach', charging individual 'leechers' -- those who download but do not redistribute in turn -- extortionate amounts of money that they would never be able to pay back.

The taking down of individual torrent sites that linked to the torrent file itself set a precedent where some website owners made a mockery of fractured, vague legal systems being imposed across borders; though it has not even begun to scratch the surface of the 'endemic' problem.

Governments worldwide are not focusing on the bigger picture. Instead, in a bid to satisfy the perverse Hollywood relationship the government has, it is not focusing on one very key outcome.

Citizens will not accept a government that censors the web.

To consider Pandora's box theory, illegal copyright infringement, piracy, or 'stealing', whatever you may call it, is ingrained into modern society to attempt to limit and control.

How would the general public react if the U.S. had a situation similar to the UK riots -- which considering the economic state may not be such a fantasy? Would they calmly accept the restriction on Facebook or Twitter for an unspecified amount of time? A week? A month?

This could be 'due cause' to restrict and monitor social networking. Doesn't this in turn limit how we can communicate, and if need be, organise public lobbying or peaceful protests?

Oh, hello China. Why are you smirking at us oh-so smugly?

It's also amazing just how many people fighting for this bill aren't versed in technology. Take Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "I'm not a technical expert on this", he exclaims.

Would it not make more sense for the copyrighted material sharing 'phenomena' to be studied properly by technology experts, as the entire scenario relies on technology to make it possible?

The backlash will arguably definitively come from the younger generation. In reality, there are children still in high school who know more about programming and DNS entries than most of those arguing in Congress. Workarounds will be sought, discovered and widely accessed.

But who will enforce the 'Great Firewall of America': the copyright infringement police of Hollywood, or U.S. law enforcement? If it is the former rather than the latter, either way it routes at least some way into turning into the end-scene from V for Vendetta.

With the act handing over tremendous power to even small copyright holders, this could in turn cause online entrepreneurship to stagnate or even decline. Who would wants to spend time and money on a venture that could be shut down within a matter of days, whilst lawyers take their cut and argue over the issue?

Innovation may be exploding due to the freedom of the Internet and the rapid expansion of social media, but this bill could pinch out the flame.

SOPA is not about catching those who infringe copyright law.

It's centered instead on the means to do it. The third-party who provides the service, such as a government regulator or even a private industry member -- because governments do love to outsource, particularly in shady areas to distance itself from the judiciary -- will mean that the Twitter's, Facebook's and the Tumblr's of the world can immediately incur liability. Small businesses can be hit with bogus or difficult to prove copyright claims, and be shut down within days.

The average user will not be able to bypass the bill's measures, but it is not the average user that infringes copyright on a mass level.

Beyond anything else, there is no solid evidence to suggest that without this bill, the copyright system will fail. It should be businesses that adapt their business model, and find a cure to a solution that it in part created.

Putting copyright into perspective and relative proportion.

The list of opponents to this bill runs down the length of my arm. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, AOL, Yahoo!, eBay, Mozilla -- and of course, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) -- all oppose this bill and the measures it could enacts.

But instead of countering child abuse imagery, online terrorism and cybercrime, Hollywood is instead bidding its efforts on self-preservation amongst other things.

The web of politics that enmeshes economics, corporations and the public is well known and heavily documented. But something is heinously wrong when the balance of power shifts to the point where intended laws to protect the film and music industry are more severe, restricting and infringing of civil liberties than the laws set to prevent and report the spread of online child sexual abuse.

Putting a band-aid over a wound does not heal it. All in all, you cannot control something you do not understand the nature of.

But Congress will try anyway.

Charlie Osborne, ZDNet's new iGeneration columnist, contributed to this report.

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Topics: Piracy, Browser, Enterprise Software, Security

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157 comments
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  • DMCA created the problem

    The ironic thing is that the DMCA created the copyright industries current problems and they were the ones that pushed for it!<br><br>The only reason web lockers can exist, with 99.9% copyright infringements, is because DMCA gives them (and the ISPs that host them, and sell them bandwidth) immunity just as long as they follow a take down process. The takedown process requires omnipresence of the copyright holder, because only they can file a takedown notice for their infringements. So they need 'god-like' powers to monitor all places at all times!<br><br>Whereas, without the DMCA, you'd file a class action against the web locker owner, or if you can't find them, the ISP that sells them bandwidth. Which if it's 99.9% infringement would be easy to win.<br><br>A web locker that isn't run on copyright infringements would win, a locker that is mostly used for infringement would lose, end of weblocker.<br><br>Civil copyright infringement is worldwide, and without the DMCA, you could have used Civil processes.

    Yet with the DMCA process in the US, foreign countries can make a DMCA like take down process and shrug their shoulders when faced with civil copyright lawsuits!
    guihombre
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @guihombre Yeah Bad DMCA. I think Ford and GM should be held liable when I speed. For they create the cars that go faster than the speed limit.

      And Gun makers? And ammunition makers? Heck lets sue Louisville slugger when the bat as used as a weapon.

      sheesh
      Bodazapha
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @Bodazapha

        Good point, Bodazapha. It's time to stop blaming the cyberlockers for the music and movie companies REFUSAL to realize that people are NOT GOING TO PAY TWICE FOR THE SAME PRODUCT!

        I already pay for CD quality music and DVD+ quality movies using my Comcast subcription. Why should I pay AGAIN to buy a physical DVD? No, sorry.... I am going to go online and 'pirate' and I will feel absolutely NO moral qualms about doing that, because I have already paid ONCE for the product in question.

        I am not paying once for my TV, once for my radio, once for my computer, which is the MAFIAA's wet dream!
        Lerianis10
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @guihombre : Right on! If it were up to me, all these pernicious measures would go to the o'l "bit bucket" before you could sneeze.
      Starman35
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @guihombre

      The DMCA process was the RIGHT process. The cyberlockers simply CANNOT monitor what is put on their websites. They just cannot! There are NO technical measures that can get past one goddamned simple thing: PASSWORDING!

      It's time to stop with this insanity that the cyberlockers are the problem. No, companies wanting to be paid 3-5 times for the SAME GODDAMNED PRODUCT is the problem!
      Lerianis10
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @Lerianis10 Absolutely correct. I believe records labels think it perfectly reasonable to expect consumers to pay for a song every time they put it on a different device. Kinda like having to pay your car maker every time you drive on a road for the first time. It's ridiculous. Do record labels pay the company that made their sound board every time they record a new song?<br>Its not like they have to get the band together to re-record the song every time someone buys it.
        anothercanuck
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @guihombre the whole think is ridiculous the riaa and the mpaa and others have done a great job of brainwashing the younger generations and passing laws to make the public that fair use is now "piracy" and "immoral"
      and what is sopa? is it the same as the coica that became the protect ip act , aka pipa?if so how many times are they going to change the name or give it more names? and im sure that it has nothing to do with deliberately trying to confuse people by doing so,these are despicable tactics by disgusting individuals and corporate special interest groups
      i hope they all fail ,as well as their cloud computing agenda
      boston2376
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @guihombre This is the government way! just look at sales tax on new vehicles. they get the sales tax on 20-50,000$ when the vehicle is sold new then tax everyone else AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN... Every time it is sold to someone else. This can easily add up to the government getting sales tax on 100-150,000$ an average vehicle.... and the beat goes on....
      biblethumber
  • Our government fears an American &quot;spring&quot;, like those in Arabia.

    Yes, our government is trying to censor the web. So is the UK.

    Our corrupt officials have sold our government to the highest bidder, and it is now operated by the rich for the rich... and they fear an American Spring like the ones now being celebrated throughout the middle east. After crushing the citizens under heel for so long, they see what open communications have brought in Arabian countries and fear the same here. Thus, the land of the free and it's free speech must becomes a thing of the past so that the rich can continue to get richer and the poor may be oppressed more easily.

    Perhaps I am becoming a cynical old man as I watch them disassemble my constitution, but these are sad times : sad times indeed.

    Regards,
    Jon
    JonathonDoe
    • American Spring

      @JonathonDoe

      Great points! Americans are about to discover that they're no longer restricted to the Democratic and Republican parties, and can actually vote for whoever is best qualified for the job instead. That's my definition of the "American Spring".

      gary
      gdstark13
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @gdstark13 (and @Lerianis10) - I [totally] disagree with Lerianis10 - your vote is WASTED NO MATTER WHAT! So, don't give me that bullcrap about "Dem & Rep" are the ONLY choice, else your vote is wasted."
        OUR VOTE IS WASTED WITH *BOTH* (AND ALL) PARTIES!
        EVERYONE - Dem, Rep, other, always say, "Vote us in, we'll fix all the problems." But, WHEN did THAT (fix) EVER HAPPEN??? *NEVER*
        bitdoctor
      • American Spring

        As an American living abroad I have been watching my country slide into a mess where the people are being manipulated with fear so that they are prepared to allow the few to control everything about their lives. America has become a laughing stock to the rest of the world because the political system has become such a Joke. But the "Wasted Vote" is in reality a myth perpetuated by the Major parties. My Sister live in a very conservative, staunchly republican area of New York State. In the last presidential election more people DIDN'T vote then voted for either Candidate. This in an Area Desperate to see McCain win. In the Few places where people were brave enough to post Obama signs, they were quickly ripped down. But in that area, If everyone who didn't vote, had voted for Alfred E Newman, We could very well have an Bucked toothed Comic book Character as President now. Here in Australia, THe Balance of Power between the two major parties is being held by three Independents and The Green Party. The Green Party with something like ten members of Parliment is essentially dictating Policy to the Government. Now you might not Agree with their policies, I Do And I see some really exciting things happening here. The Tea Party Wacko's did it in the last election, It is possible to Do the same thing and re-claim your Government. Forget Occupy Wallstreet, Why set your sights so low. How about, Occupy The Senate.
        That is My two cents
        BoneLazy
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @gdstark13 ,,, Your American Spring opinion is silly, gds... . Only biased, greedy and power-seeking types get the slimmest of chances to make it as a gvt crtter of any decent standing. IOW, the honest guys don't have a chance in hell or hell's hell.
        tom@...
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @gdstark13 The problem isn't that there are only two parties. The problem is that government is this large and empowered, regardless of whom is at the helm. Our Constitution was for a small, limited government. Ours has long since gone waaay beyond its enumerated powers.
        Techboy_z
      • Learn a new game called "Bounce the Clown".

        @gdstark13 ... The American public need to learn a new game called "Bounce the Clown".

        Who ever is in office "bounce the clown" into the street and put the other side in.
        After two elections they will realize who is in power again.
        Reality Bites
    • Oh, please.

      @JonathonDoe
      DittoHeadStL
      • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

        @DittoHeadStL ,,, A vote cannot be wasted. The only choices are FOR, AGAINST, and NO CONFIDENCE vy voting for no one on any particular issue. There ARE very valid reasons to not vote for certain offices!
        And that's 3 choices, not 2.
        tom@...
      • Keep up that Kook-Aid Consumption

        @DittoHeadStL ... keep up your consumption otherwise you might come out of your coma.
        Reality Bites
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @JonathonDoe

      Agreed and I do not live in the US. We see it all the time; those with money live in a different system then the people that do not have money. Give the banks and financial institutions bailouts using your money and have them turn around and give millions of dollars to their friends etc and there is nothing you can do about it. Also, when a billonaire pays 6% or less in taxes and a secretary pays 30% is indicative of system that is broken. If you are watching the "occupy" movement play out you will see just what is wrong with our society. In addition, you can listen to a number of congressmen, I just did, who doesn't even have the slightest concept of what this movement is all about. All he could say is that they were living in dirt. Wake up congressmen, etc some of these people do not have a job and the dirt is all they have.

      Doesn't your charter of rights say, "..for the people by the people". Maybe it needs changing to read, "..for the rich, by the rich."
      mike_patburgess@...
    • RE: SOPA: Why the 'broken web' should stay broken

      @JonathonDoe

      Exactly! The globalists are executing a full court press to lock down American citizens after they've seen how the people can organize and throw off their shackles. They have to move fast because people are finally beginning to realize what is happening. Wake up America, we are rapidly running out of time to free ourselves from the same kind of people we rebelled against in 1775!
      skepticat