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SOPA: Right Idea, Wrong Method?

Written on January 13, 2012

Unless you’ve been hiding under some sort of digital rock, you’ve probably heard about H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act that is under consideration in the House of Representatives. The purpose is to thwart the streaming, downloading of, and linking to copyright-protected content. Supporters argue that more aggressive means of blocking and removing sites providing copyrighted material are necessary to enforce copyright law. Critics argue that the bill, as written, will not only fail to accomplish this goal, but will open the door to Internet censorship and a vast host of unintended consequences that will violate the First Amendment.


The issue has sparked a vast controversy, and has become a major topic of debate in the Internet community. Major providers of intellectual content, such as the MPAA, RIAA, and Entertainment Software Association, are among the chief supporters of the bill. On the other side of the issue, a wide variety of Internet-based businesses and organizations have spoken out against the bill, including Mozilla, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Zynga, and AOL.


There is no doubt this is a complicated, complex issue. There is no doubt piracy is a major concern, and opposing it is a difficult yet necessary job. Anyone who creates intellectual property deserves to have it protected, just as any entity that creates a product. But the objections and concerns about this bill are lengthy and very valid. Let’s take a look at some of them. Lots of links incoming.


A great place to start is CNET’s article How SOPA would affect you: FAQ.  It breaks the issues down into digestible chunks, and explains them in detail with plenty of links. Read it through and you will have a commanding understanding of the situation.


I’ve read many criticisms concerning SOPA, as well as articles supporting it, but I think the weightiest of them I’ve read was The Heritage Foundation’s. One of the nation’s most influential conservative think tanks, the Foundation is known as a venerated voice of conservative ideals. Their article discusses the validity of the goals of SOPA, but outlines the many unintended and undesirable consequences for a society that values free speech and free enterprise.


Similarly, when the Stanford Law Review speaks we would do well to listen. Their recent article Don’t Break the Internet is an even stronger sentiment against SOPA, calling it “an unprecedented, legally sanctioned assault on the Internet’s critical technical infrastructure.” They characterize it as a sledgehammer solution to a problem that requires a scalpel.


Then there is the Department of Energy’s subsidiary, Sandia Labs, who recently sent a letter to Congress containing its findings; that SOPA would not be effective in its goals, that it would negatively impact U.S. cyber security, and would delay the adoption of DNSSEC. They are very serious warnings from people who know what they’re talking about.


This blog post, already well too long, could continue for pages and pages cataloging the objections, concerns, and debates over SOPA. So I will leave it at this. Adam Savage of the MythBusters is against SOPA. Enough said.

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