Is SOPA Really That Good For Everyone? It Doesn’t Seem So, Despite The Intent

by on December 20, 2011

in consumer

Consumer Bits on Brusimm 200w logo, [Consumer News, advice and reviews]Once again the many can thank the few for having potential freedoms taken away and/or restricted.  In this case, I’m thinking about movie piracy, but this is not limited to just that one industry.

(This is a quickie article, shot from the hip, talking about the major outline points I’ve noticed about this SOPA bill.  It’s not intended to be the end-all of anything, except my venting a little bit about movie piracy and the cavalier attitude digital pirates carry with them. I’ve provided source links at the bottom of this rant if you want further information from different sources.)

The SOPA bill is the Stop Online Piracy Act, also known as H.R.3261. (Which is getting voted for on December 21st, 2011.)

This bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011 and it basically looks to expand the long arm of the U.S. law and copyright holders in their abilities to fight the online trafficking and theft of copyrighted property, or copyright infringement.

SOPA would allow the U.S. Department of Justice and  copyright holders the ability to get court orders against websites involved or, more accurately, accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

I don’t have any issues with the spirit of this new bill.  But there seems to be a lot of freedoms granted in the exercising of the protection of the copyrighted materials…

For instance, the potential ramifications from a website that is discovered to be facilitating copyright infringement (knowingly or not) can include

  • Barring advertising networks from doing business with infringing websites;
  • Barring search engines from linking to suspected sites:
  • Requiring ISPs to block access to suspected infringing sites.

This bill also makes unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material a felony.

And the peer-pressure aspect of this bill will give immunity to ISPs that voluntarily take action against suspected websites that seem dedicated to copyright infringement.

It’s an interesting bill, that’s for sure, but many are worried that SOPA is going to make innocent websites and such, victims of the legal freedoms that come with this bill.

And there are a huge number of technical concerns addressed with this bill, from the private sector of life.

Plus all the bill would do, like gun control, is give the criminals the freedom to just use off-shore ISPs and hurt the innocent folks that get caught up in the swirl of legal issues this bill is prone to.

Concerns involve

  • Open source software projects getting shut down (IE FireFox) due to add-ons created for nefarious purposes;
  • The Domain Name System could find itself undermined due to filtered DNS queries;

And that, as the Huffington Post points out in an article,

“Ironically, it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name, if their numeric web addresses aren’t public even sooner. Anyone who knows or has that web address would still be able to reach the offending website.”

Entire websites could be shut down, even if the infringement comes from a solitary comment spam;

Digital Movie Piracy is deemed illegalBasically the bill brings into question whether the law wants to shut down the internet every time some piece of it does not fit an industry’s business model, and I can’t fault that perspective.

But there always seems to be a push from big business to wrangle the internet under its control and use different angles to attempt this.

And this comes from the minority of web users who feel entitled to do whatever they want when it comes to digital content in the web, as I pointed out in my latest Online Piracy Conviction article.

There I pointed out illicit users’ excuses for stealing copyrighted content on the internet include

  • It’s digital content on the internet and it is nothing like the real thing;
  • Downloading a movie is not illegal;
  • Piracy is a marketing sampling;
  • I want to preview it.

All idiotic excuses for stealing but I think there’s one very fascinating aspect in that collection of excuses that should be focused on… and that is the uploading and downloading of illegal content.

Sure, ISPs are pressured to not host copyright infringing material, but there’s only so far they can go before they become big brother and the reigns to the internet are handed over to someone else besides Google.

But users, like the one convicted and sentenced to jail the other day for uploading the Wolverine pirated movie, are the ones that need to have a clear message sent to them so they understand the ramifications of dealing in illegal material.

I don’t think the average Joe or the little mom & pop website should be hurt by the legal freedoms that are looking to be introduced by the SOPA bill.

As the website, Dread Central, noted,

“Now we are possibly going to have to contend with the censorship of our Internet.”

And their concerns include linking to infringing screenshots, reusing video clips and sound bytes in their podcasts, sharing links to creative edits of movies and the like.

They even address that a site like theirs can get shut down for a commentor or spam bot landing a successful comment on the site that links out to a torrent site or illegally links content to an image hosted on their website.  (I see that a lot where smaller sites use my images by linking straight to them and then I get the traffic hit on the image.)


Cinema Static - TV News, Movie News and other Entertainment OpinionI don’t condone piracy.  I’ve never partaken in any torrent site or tried to circumvent the process.  As you know from my Cinema Static entertainment section here on, I call myself the Average Joe and judge my movie reviews on how I felt about dropping my hard-earned money on the movie I just saw, whether I went to the theater or rented it or bought it.  I’m old-school like that I guess.

I applaud the spirit of the SOPA bill, but there has to be a different way to address the folks that help this kind of industry exist.

There has to be a better way, where studios can actually police their own staff better, where studios can help movie theaters police illicit movie filming*, and where ISPs can just say, yea, this user up or downloaded this content.

*I’ve seen some of the cooler equipment deployed to detect someone running electronics in a theater, and it’s pretty nifty.  Not to mention for a good cause.

huffingtonpost: stop-online-piracy-act-vote

wikipedia: Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

dreadcentral: horrors-passing-sopa-bill

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