The Serpent

// Cursing the Internet since 1998

My Take on SOPA

We'll still be here...
Posted January 19, 2012 Archive

I figured it’s about time to throw my two cents into this SOPA rage that’s going around the net, and The Serpent won’t be taking any time out to protest because quite frankly… this is an American problem. Sure the Internet spans borders, but Congress does not. SOPA really needs to be taken seriously by those directly affected by it (American ISP’s and content providers), but in reality - there’s no new territory being crossed by the rest of the world.

We’ve been subjected to take down notices, copyright infringement cases and all sorts of DMCA related pursuits since the early ages of the net - and in each case, the U.S attempts to apply local law on an international level (just like any other nation). What’s different about most copyright law is that each country generally accepts the ‘international copyright’ version, but maintains their own domestic approach to it when violations occur. This is something that’s not likely to change any time soon, so a copyright violation that occurs in the UK will still be subject to the usual attempts of extradition, and a trial by US law. That almost always fails, and local laws are applied. This is the same story year in, year out.

The main worry surrounding SOPA is its the ability to take down websites without due process. Therefore the issue is more about censorship - if you’re in the U.S. Other ISP’s\DNS providers based anywhere else in the world have only their local government to answer to, and are under no obligation to take anything down unless they owe Congress a lot of favours. Therefore the last option is to block foreign copyright violators, something which will no doubt enrage and segregate the US internet culture. Technically - the bill proposes to do this via removing the DNS entry for a site. The site remains up, but users will simply be unable to find it. Again, only a problem if you use a U.S based DNS provider, and there are plenty on Earth.

If passed, this means the Internet experience for U.S citizens will get a lot worse, and the Internet as a whole could loose some very powerful and popular websites (since they mostly come from US based Internet companies). Therefore American sites such as Wikipedia are doing well to raise awareness. But worse case scenario if the bill passes - we simply split the net into a US and World edition, and a lot of US citizens using European proxies to get back to open and free access.

In short, we’ve got used to stupid bills coming and going that threaten to destroy the net. We support our U.S buddies who are trying to raise awareness, but if all else fails, there’s a whole world out there ;)

My Take on SOPA
Posted January 19, 2012
Written by John Payne