The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), under the guise of implementing much needed curbs against copyright infringement, is actually creating a legislative mechanism where the majority of Americans will be considered felons.
Big Brother Sledgehammering
SOPA’s outrageous Big Brother sledgehammering approach to copyright protection has been widely discussed, and previous Benchmark blogs can serve as an overview (see below). As the more radical aspects of this legislation place themselves in the public consciousness, the more ordinary Americans are finding them intolerable, inordinate or outright insane. Petitions to kill SOPA have gathered over 25,000 signatures in two days, YouTube’s SOPA-Cabana is nearing a million views, and the Business Software Alliance, which counts Adobe, Apple, Intel and Microsoft among its members, has opposed the Act as too extreme to contemplate.
US = China, Iran, et al.
At the core of the SOPA regulatory bludgeon is the proposal for the United States to engage in widespread DNS filtering, much as China, Iran, Burma, Kazakhstan and Syria do. The US State Department has actually developed and promoted more than a dozen tools that allow these repressed populations to circumvent the suppressive restrictions enacted by their governments, so it is an irony that is not lost on many that now the United States government itself is in the position of implementing exactly the same barriers to the free exchange of online information across the country’s borders.
Circumventions Are Already Available
The MPAA has promoted a paper by Daniel Castro, a Senior Analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation entitled PIPA/SOPA: Responding to Critics and Finding a Path Forward. In the thesis, Castro maintains that the number of internet users who apply circumvention tools in countries where DNS firewalls are in place is less than 3 percent, so a similar level of skirting can be expected in the US as well. This prospect may not be fully accurate, as there are already widely available browser add-ons such as DeSopa and Pirate Bay Dancing that blast through the filters by either routing users through proxies or accessing websites through their IP number addresses alone.
Immolation of Dissenting Opinions
During two days of contentious House debate over the bill Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) remarked “once the government has the taste of power, the temptation to exert ever greater control over the Internet… will be even greater.” The danger of DNS filtering for strictly copyright infringement could easily be extended to issues that are not as clearcut: a creeping institutional censorship that could immolate the dissenting opinions traditionally acknowledged as the greatest strength of vivacious democracies.
The last eleven years have seen a curtailment of personal liberties to the extent that the Founding Fathers are likely spinning in their graves. Thomas Jefferson stated that “the policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits” and “what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” Driven by the belated need to establish online copyright respect, SOPA’s legislative supporters are violating the most basic precepts that the nation is based upon. Jefferson “swore on the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” How many current legislators are equally committed to that true liberty?