Why SOPA is a Steaming Pile of Shit
I’m not in the USA, so not immediately affected by the widely reported SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act). However, as someone who believes the biggest strength of the Internet is the freedom of information, I’m disgusted that such a move could even be a remote consideration in a 21st Century and supposedly democratic, developed nation.
Warning: Rant commences here.
What is SOPA?
Aside from being a steaming pile of dog shit, you mean? SOPA stands for ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ and is a proposed bill that claims its intention is to crackdown on online copyright infringement. The USA has historically struggled to clamp down on non-US websites promoting the sharing of pirated digital content. Pirate Bay is a prime example. SOPA is, so they claim, the solution.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) protects copyright already to a limited degree. This is how that would work:
- Random Youtube user uploads a copyrighted video
- Copyright holders issuer a ‘takedown notice’ to Youtube
- Youtube informs the user, in a timely fashion, and the user can appeal… or (as is more frequently the case) just not bother
- Youtube is in no trouble whatsoever because they responded on time
- Should the user disagree, it could potentially go to court. Though this is relatively rare on a site of the scale of Youtube.
The problem with the DMCA? Websites outside of the USA can just completely ignore them and it’s pretty difficult for anyone to do much about it.
SOPA is being touted as the solution (I would be inclined to agree if ‘solution’ were synonymous with ‘steaming pile of dog shit’). This makes the site hosting the content (for example, Youtube in the above example) more accountable for the content. It would also mean that:
- US Search engines like Google.com would not be allowed to link to (thus return them as results for a query) any ‘flagged’ sites.
- US Payment services such as Paypal wouldn’t be permitted to process payments to such sites.
- ISPs would potentially have to block users from visiting such websites.
So, What’s the Problem?
Well, this is where opinion is divided. Some would say it’s a great solution to a clear problem. Others would concur with me… I refer you once again to the title of this blog post as to what my opinion was.
Here’s my biggest issue with it:
It’s CENSORSHIP. In fact, it’s censorship of the highest order. It’s the type of censorship that takes place in Dictatorships!
Why should Google de-index a website because it’s infringing copyright?
Google shouldn’t be responsible for policing the web! Nor should Youtube, an ISP or Paypal!
Nobody is saying that copyright shouldn’t be protected. But there are better ways to go about it than by making it the job of major search engines and providers to police the web.
Explicitly holding a search engine accountable for removing all the ‘naughty’ websites from its index is a lazy way of trying to solve the issue.
User generated content and the sharing of information freely across the web by millions of different people is what makes the Internet what it is. If Youtube had to manually check every single upload for copyright infringement before upload would it be the size it is? No! Expecting Google and other major sites not to share certain information is like expecting the news channels not to feature stories that aren’t nice! Get a grip!
It’s the responsibility of content creators to respect copyright. Nobody else. And censoring the Internet will not make those intent on copyright infringement any less likely to continue offending. What it will do is to open the door for censorship of the Internet.
What next? The burning of books because we don’t like the content. Hmmm… where’ve we seen that before?