I remember a few years back when the full weight and realization of Digital Rights Management (DRM) was being openly discussed and vilified. This was the music and video industries attempt to control the content they were producing. We quickly realized that if we cosign the technology, we would be removing all the freedoms that we currently enjoy in the physical world. We subsequently discussed how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) limited our rights at the device by limiting the ability to copy and distribute, though the law, predated and never really accounted for the boom that followed in the wake of internets popularity in the new millennium.
SOPA and PIPA are the latest attempt to shore up that gap, it takes all these concepts to a new high. I am not one for wanton hyperbole, but the enactment of SOPA and PIPA present the greatest threat to the content we enjoy and share everyday on the web. Like DMCA, SOPA targets anyone who "knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed by such entity...for the circumvention or bypassing" of a Justice Department-erected blockade. However, where DMCA surgically targeted the offenders, SOPA declares all out nuclear war against the basic tenants of the internet. Mitchel Baker, is Chair of the Mozilla Foundation and I have found his explanation the easiest to bring people up to speed and is a follows:
Assume there's a corner store in your neighborhood that rents movies. But the movie industry believes that some or even all of the videos in that store are unauthorized copies, so that they're not being paid when people watch their movies. What should be done?
SOPA/PIPA do not aim at the people trying to get to the store, or even the store itself. The solution under the proposed bills is to make it as difficult as possible to find or interact with the store:
- Maps showing the location of the store must be changed to hide it.
- The road to the store must be blocked off so that it’s difficult to physically get to there.
- Directory services must unlist the store’s phone number and address(3). Credit card companies.
- would have to cease providing services to the store. Local newspapers would no longer be allowed to place ads for the video store.
- And to make sure it all happens, any person or organization who doesn’t do this is subject to penalties.
- Even publishing a newsletter that tells people where the store is would be prohibited by this legislation.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other Web companies have created a united front against the bill, and sent a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying that SOPA, "pose[s] a serious risk to our industry's continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation's cybersecurity." Additionally you may have seen semi effective protests staged by Wikipedia and Google (to name two).
The most vocal proponents of the act are the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (ring a bell). These are basically the same guys who treated us like potential thieves during the late 90’s in a vain attempt to protect there intellectual property. It should be noted that Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization's support for SOPA.
The following TED video also spells out the danger along with a great description of the continuous fight we appear to be in as content producers, consumers, and sharers on the web.
The best analogy I can come up with is if you have an infestation of cockroaches in your home you target the infestation, you do no burn down the entire house. We have to come up with a better solution to what is a *very real* problem, I just do not believe that SOPA and PIPA are the correct direction. Ultimately this is a fight for control and I personally encourage everyone to get educated and join in!