Friday, December 30, 2011

SOPA: 20 Reasons Why It's a Really Bad Idea

"20 Ways SOPA Can Affect The Internet"
Info Carnivore (December 30, 2011)

"The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is now before the American Congress, waiting to be passed or not. With online piracy at an all time high, the US feels that it’s become almost impossible to manage traffic across borders. While the Congress ponders over this, the internet population is concerned as to how SOPA will affect the internet...."

The Lemming ranted about SOPA on Wednesday. Normally, there wouldn't be another post about the same topic for - maybe a week or more. In this case, the Lemming thinks a little repetition won't hurt.

SOPA may be well-intentioned, but the Lemming thinks that Congress should stop, take a deep breath, tear the thing up, and start over.

The Info Carnivore post is mostly a 20-point list about SOPA. It's not good news. Here's a sample:

Forget About Online Business, Freedom of Speech

"...1. Death Penalty For Online Businesses: SOPA authorizes sites that are reported for copyright infringement to be cut off from their domain name. ISPs can force advertisers and payment processors to suspend their services to the site...."

That "death penalty" phrase is a bit over-stated. The Lemming has heard or read nothing to indicate that business owners would actually be executed under SOPA provisions. Still, as a metaphor for driving a company out of business, it's appropriate.

"...6. Free Speech Rights Will Be Censored: Online businesses, user-generated content sites and social media sites will try to play it safe and start heavily censoring user content. This can stifle users’ free speech rights, making the internet a risky place to say anything at all...."

"It can't happen here?" The Lemming remembers McCarthyism and political correctness. Moving on.

'Who Needs a Trial?'

"...2. Sites Blocked And Sued For User Content: Sites which host copyright content uploaded by users can be blacklisted and blocked via ISPs, search engines and payment processors. This can be done without the benefit of a court hearing...."

Let's look at #2 again. Sites that host content uploaded by users can be driven offline. Maybe that doesn't sound so bad: SOPA is against pirates, right? Here's the problem: "...This can be done without the benefit of a court hearing...."

Let's look at a hypothetical situation. You wake up some morning, go online, and try to find something on CNET's Download.com. It's not there any more. Google reports that there's no such site. A few weeks, maybe months or years, later, you find out why. Somebody told the SOPA enforcers that something on Download.com was illegal. So the site was taken off the Internet.

Why bother with a trial?

Is that being alarmist? Maybe. But governments, governmental agencies, and officials have been known to do odd things.

The Info Carnivore post discusses what we can expect from SOPA:
  1. Death Penalty For Online Businesses
  2. Sites Blocked And Sued For User Content
  3. Copyright Holders Can Sue Sites
  4. Social Media Held Accountable
  5. Small Tech Companies To Suffer
  6. Free Speech Rights Will Be Censored
  7. Downloading Free Content Will Become Risky
  8. Legitimate Business Will Be Held Liable
  9. Open Source Sites May Shut Down
  10. DNS System Will Be Undermined
  11. Internet Speeds May Slow Down
  12. Downgrade Attacks Will Increase
  13. Use Of Illegal Web Proxies Will Increase
  14. Emergency Proxy Servers May Be Made Illegal
  15. Streaming Sites Will Be Penalized
  16. Online Album Sites Will Shut Down
  17. Browsers Will Be Penalized
  18. ISPs Will Infringe On Privacy
  19. Legitimate Links Can Be Deleted
  20. Browser Ability To Generate Fair Links Will Be Impacted
Pirated intellectual property is a real issue, one that should be addressed. But SOPA doesn't look like a solution.

Whether SOPA is an ill-considered effort to show how busy Congressional incumbents are, or an effort to grab control of what commoners may say or see on the Internet: SOPA looks like a really bad idea. For everybody except whoever winds up running it.

A tip of the Lemming's hat to danielsnyder1, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this post.

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