Pending SOPA Legislation Gets Under the Corporate Collar

November 16, 2011, By George Lang

Big Internet corporations are nervous about proposed anti-piracy legislation known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This House bill known as H.R. 3261, along with Senate bill S. 968 (the Protect IP Act), if passed, would impose untested website monitoring and manipulation techniques for the purpose of combating “foreign “rogue” websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting;” and, according to the co-signing corporations (e.g., Facebook, eBay, Google, Twitter, and more), “these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity” (Doctorow).

Here at Device Magazine, we are not naturally inclined to side with huge corporations on much of anything; however, in this case, government intervention seems awkwardly positioned to attempt something that could have Orwellian-like ramifications for creative individuals, their jobs, and their Internet security. There may be other—more effective, digital means—of enforcing copyrighted content without such invasive trepidation. Further exploration of the issues by representatives of cyber-law enforcement, congress, corporate America, individual citizenry, and technological experts might be a more cautious way to proceed.

Moreover, because the Internet is an international phenomenon, overseas cooperation will need to be garnered. There can be no effective solution to a problem that stretches beyond our borders if it only addresses the problem from within them. Therefore, congress and the state department will need to cooperate on an initiative that transcends United States boundaries.

If the Obama administration is sincere about its inclusive foreign policy (which it seems to have so far represented fairly), “terms of legality” for any new legislation must apply within existing and/or new international treaties; after all, the stated problem is “foreign ”rogue” websites.” How can the US possibly enforce purely national legislative measures without common international law to back them up?

Gun rights lobbyists use the effective moniker, When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Similarly, those “rogue” entities that pursue illegal and unfair means of profiteering on the Internet will find ways to get around the new legislation. “If SOPA or PROTECT IP were to become law, Vixie said, sites such  as the Pirate Bay, which really are dedicated to hosting  illegally copied content, could simply set up an alternative set  of domain name servers. Even ordinary users would find it trivial to get around blockages involving the traditional DNS system” (Emspak quoting Paul Vixie, chairman and chief scientist at the Internet Systems Consortium in Redwood City, Calif.).

The proposed new legislation obviously attempts to address complex networking problems that are elusive and will require more consideration before passing. It certainly cannot hurt to take a brief timeout before passage to iron out the technical details.

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