Editorial

Editorial: Anti-SOPA, anti-piracy

As much as some would like to cast the opponents of SOPA as a bunch of content stealing pirates and lechers, that image couldn't be further from the truth. The opponents of SOPA include everyone from corporate giants like Microsoft and Google to darlings of the free and open internet, like Mozilla and Wikipedia. I would go so far as to say that 'we are 99%,' but that's kind of already taken.

Just because someone is an opponent of SOPA and PIPA doesn't mean that they are pro-piracy. Far from it. I mean, come on, Microsoft is one of piracy's biggest opponents, and even they see the damage that this legislation could do to the internet, both on a social and a technical level. But what about the people like me, who are doing what they can and pushing back against SOPA?

I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you that I, for one, am not pro-piracy. Heck, this might even get a few unpopular responses, but overall I support copyright law. As a content creator, I don't want people to enjoy my hard work without giving something back, and in turn I try to do the same whenever I enjoy someone else's work. There are only a couple of cases I can think of where piracy could be remotely legitimate.

Most of the anti-piracy legislation that has come up for vote in the US has interpreted the internet as basically another medium of communication and entertainment, along the lines of radio or TV. The government can probably justify regulating those, but the internet? Come on! If someone starts a TV station and rebroadcasts programming that doesn't belong to them, especially if they profit from it, it is probably the government's place to deal with that. The problem with trying to implement the same approach to the internet is that it doesn't incorporate user created content or the fact that a single website can have tons of different uses.

Under SOPA and PIPA, the government would have the authority to shut down any website it deems illegal, no due process required. That makes sense on TV or radio, where pirate stations are controlled by one person or group, used for one purpose, and really have no legitimate use whatsoever. The internet is none of those things.

Let's take Neowin for an example. We post news, editorial content, software information and reviews, operates chat rooms and forums, and even has its own podcast ventures. Even though it's all centralized to one domain, Neowin probably has more in common with a network or corporation that offers a lot of different services. Under SOPA and PIPA, it is all considered one thing because of the way the internet works.

If one user decides to distribute copyrighted material on one of our forums, SOPA would allow the government to shut down the whole site without any notice or legal process whatsoever. Bye bye! All because one user decided to break the site's rules and post something they weren't supposed to.

But wait, that's fear mongering. True, it is a worst case scenario, but have no doubt; these two pieces of legislation would make it possible. And it's not just bad for corporations and content portals.
Non-profit sites like Wikipedia are also threatened. Once again, it's the same problem.

Since the web is an interactive medium, if one user decides to do something illegal, the whole site could get punished, even though what that user does is against the site's own rules. From the tiniest website to the biggest corporations, SOPA and PIPA are threats. Have no doubts about that.

What's even worse is that these bills would encourage ISPs to take preemptive actions against such 'evildoers,' which means that they would be encouraged to block sites that they deem illegal, and thus providing them with a perfect excuse to block anything critical of them. Countries like China and Iran use piracy and pornography as scapegoats to block political and corporate dissidents all the time.

The bills in turn provide legal precedents for the government to do much the same thing. As much as I want to have faith that our leaders will follow all of the laws they swear to defend and uphold, history shows that that isn't how it works. Even if the laws didn't end up being misused from the get go, the threat would always be there, hanging over the collective heads of the internet.

There's enough content on SOPA and PIPA out there right now to fill a library, so I really don't see much need in going on about more of the dangers it poses to the free and open internet, or by bringing up the different ways to oppose it. Whoever you are, though, I hope that you will take the time to do your part and fight it, whether it's by writing your representatives or tweeting the Senate.

Anyone who believes in and enjoys a free internet should really consider that a duty. Whether you're in the United States at the forefront of this, or on the other side of the world, this legislation effects everyone, and we're all in it together.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia and American Censorship

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12 Comments

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It's file-sharing not piracy (term given to us by the entertainment industry).

There is nothing wrong with sharing culture.

Freedom to share > Business model.

My beef is so easy to buy our so called "representative"
I stop believing in "land of the free" is more like "land of who has more money"
Internet is only place I can come on and talk ****, and express my ideas, invention, my stupidity or be nosy on other people conversation a.k.a facebook. ****, if we are losing our liberty by the day in the real world than at least let us keep the internet censorship free... bah. w/e.

I think you're missing the point. Most of the criticisms have nothing to do with "oh, but what if one user posts a Justin Bieber video and the whole site gets shut down?", which is what the bulk of your article seems to be about.

It's more about the fact that this law goes against this country's ideals. Kids at school today hear "And China isn't as good as us because did you know that their government censors websites? Oh, and they are a bunch of commies." And here we are, our government would be forcing all of our delightfully capitalist ISPs to block websites.

ArmedMonkey said,

It's more about the fact that this law goes against this country's ideals. Kids at school today hear "And China isn't as good as us because did you know that their government censors websites? Oh, and they are a bunch of commies." And here we are, our government would be forcing all of our delightfully capitalist ISPs to block websites.

I totally agree with what you're saying, but I kind of decided that it didn't really belong on Neowin. Even though we're a US based site, we've got a lot of readers who aren't, so I decided to take less of an ideals standpoint and more of a technical and abuse standpoint.

Could someone input some alternatives?

Whilst I disagree with the whole mechanism, as it can be used wrongly and jeopardise innocent website. It seems there's not much being put forward as alternative methods to combat the major on-line piracy issues: that is the sites where 99% of it's content either breaks, 99% supports the breaking of the law and the whole purpose of the website is to break the law.

As the editor points out: "as a content creator, I don't want people to enjoy my hard work without giving something back, and in turn I try to do the same whenever I enjoy someone else's work"

lt8480 said,
Could someone input some alternatives?

Whilst I disagree with the whole mechanism, as it can be used wrongly and jeopardise innocent website. It seems there's not much being put forward as alternative methods to combat the major on-line piracy issues: that is the sites where 99% of it's content either breaks, 99% supports the breaking of the law and the whole purpose of the website is to break the law.

As the editor points out: "as a content creator, I don't want people to enjoy my hard work without giving something back, and in turn I try to do the same whenever I enjoy someone else's work"

Really there is nothing wrong with what is in SOPA. The problem lies on what isn't in it.

1. The burden of proof should be on the person trying to shut it down, not the website after it has been shut down. That alone is contradictory to innocent until proven guilty.

2. Another thing missing is a way to not be shut down on a site that it is actually impossible to stop it 100% such as Youtube or Facebook. Both Youtube and Facebook have ways of reporting copyright theft on them. They actively work to keep copyright theft off of their site. That alone, at least in my book, is enough for them not to be shut down.

3. There is a harsh punishment for anyone making frivolous and false claims just to get a site taking offline to get a competitive advantage in business.

4. There is no wording about compensation for your site being taking offline for false claims.

"Whether you're in the United States at the forefront of this, or on the other side of the world, this legislation effects everyone, and we're all in it together."

this is what gets my goat. why the hell should this piece of U.S. legislature affect me? we didn't vote for your dirty politicians. if the U.S. wants to "clean up" their internet, do it in your own backyard, just don't drag other countries with you.

too hot headed to type. that'll be all.

3rd impact said,
"Whether you're in the United States at the forefront of this, or on the other side of the world, this legislation effects everyone, and we're all in it together."

this is what gets my goat. why the hell should this piece of U.S. legislature affect me? we didn't vote for your dirty politicians. if the U.S. wants to "clean up" their internet, do it in your own backyard, just don't drag other countries with you.

too hot headed to type. that'll be all.


Do you want your website blocked from 99% of US people because the US Government feels like it? Do you want Google to de-index sites you like because one user felt like posting a link to a movie? Do you want your favorite cyber lockers taken down because of one copyright file? Get a clue. This law is not only for people in the US. The US is trying to make a law for the world.

3rd impact said,
"Whether you're in the United States at the forefront of this, or on the other side of the world, this legislation effects everyone, and we're all in it together."

this is what gets my goat. why the hell should this piece of U.S. legislature affect me? we didn't vote for your dirty politicians. if the U.S. wants to "clean up" their internet, do it in your own backyard, just don't drag other countries with you.

too hot headed to type. that'll be all.

-- Of course, you did not vote for our dirty politicians. You voted for your own.
-- Actually, despite your jealous rant (I bet you're British and can't get over 1776.), the U.S. IS the whole World, all of the Moon and most of Mars; further, Texas is the whole of the U.S. Ask any Texan.
-- We founded/invented the *Internet* and, as you learned by age three, "Founders-Keepers"... Native Americans, not included.
-- The U.S. SHOULD make all the laws for all the World, always. When we let you guys do it, we Get WWI, WWII and the euro... not to mention that monstrousity it front of the Louvre.

So, go have a spot-of-tea, a sip of wine or a cold shower and cool that hot head!

On a serious note: Freedom is not "free" and with it comes responsibility. We who *love* the Internet should be its police and protectors who shun, marginalize and remove from it those who steal, infinge, etc. Until and unless we do, there will be a legitimate demand that "someone" do it for us.

Good article, makes a point that most of us can agree with I think.

If anybody wants to contact their representatives, I've put an ad on the right side of my personal web-page that automatically detects your location (based on IP) and puts links to call/email your representatives. If you choose to call them, have a headset and mic ready, it calls them from your PC.
http://bit.ly/qZH2An