Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Blackout Day

This site is not blacking out in protest.  It could have looked like this today:

It's not that I condone or support piracy, it's that I condone and support the United States Constitution and the freedom of speech.  This is not about theft; it's about censorship.  And until they figure out the right way to do it, I cannot in good conscience support it.

There would be little point of me going dark, other than a meaningless gesture of defiance, so I'm sharing my own take on the subject as well as links to a few other blog posts I've found that discuss the dangers of SOPA and PIPA.  I've written about this before, but it's an important subject, one everyone should understand.

I'm not the only one who has an opinion on this.  Author Chuck Wendig shares his awesome take on it over on his blog, Terrible Minds.  John Scalzi weighs in on it.  Chris Heald has another solid write-up on it.  Just Google it if you want to find more.  They're not completely blacked out, but they do not support the bill.  I'd tell you to use Wikipedia, but they're blacked out, which is what they'd be like if SOPA and PIPA pass.  Experts have weighed in on this subject.  And if you'd like to contribute your two cents on the subject, here is a good place to start.

And my thoughts on it?  I talked about the following points elsewhere, and thought I'd share here.  I've taken these points from the various experts speaking out against the bill and put them into my own words.  Feel free to use this information when writing to your government representative(s) or passing along information about the subject.

SOPA will cause serious additional problems, including the following:

1. It would negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity. This means it would cause more security breaches and less effective security, possibly at the expense of national defense and U.S. business and commercial interests. Military and corporate espionage is already a problem that negatively impacts the U.S. and our way of life. This would exacerbate that problem.

2. It would negatively impact Internet functionality by eroding DNS structure, which is the opposite of the way technology is supposed to work. This is counter-intuitive to basic progress.

3. It would delay the full adoption of DNSSEC and its security improvements over DNS, which is what Internet folks have been trying to do to improve virtual security. This would create a less secure Internet environment in the future, less secure than the one we now have security issues with.

4. It would assign liability to site owners for everything users post, without consideration for whether or not the user posted without permission. Site owners could face jail time or heavy fines, and DNS blacklisting. This would probably shut down a site like Seahawks.NET, or at the very least, make it very inhospitable and undesirable to visit, killing any real amount of traffic to the site.

5. It would require web services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to monitor and aggressively filter everything all users upload, equating to a ton of extra manpower and energy, and tremendously reduced/filtered/censored content. This completely violates the constitutional right of the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is not limited to any particular topics, agendas, or subjects, and is guaranteed. Copyright protection, which is supposedly the issue here is an entirely different subject than piracy, and abiding by copyright laws do not violate one's freedom of speech.

6. It would deny site owners due process of law, by initiating a DNS blacklisting based solely on a good faith assertion by an individual copyright or intellectual property owner. This completely violates due process of an individual as guaranteed by our judicial process.

7. It would give the U.S. government the power to selectively censor the web using techniques similar to those used in China, Malaysia and Iran. This is an Orwellian concept we as a nation have long stood against, and have spoken out against these practices with extreme vigor. Doing this would also cripple the U.S. as a viable destination for new online business, as it would make the establishment of one very undesirable, similar to how the online environments of China, Malaysia and Iran are currently.

A few of the options that would work to combat piracy:

1. Release products such as movies simultaneously worldwide. It costs nothing more to do this, and completely undermines the reasons people put pirated copies up in the first place. This would greatly cut back on the onslaught of pirated cam/DVD rips that make the products available where they are not yet legally released. This cuts back on piracy caused by people's inability to wait for a product's release, such as a highly anticipated movie debut.

2. Do away with DRM restrictions. They don't work at all, and only frustrate legitimate paid customers, encouraging them to pirate themselves. This would allow customers the ability to back up their purchased items. They should also not have to buy back their entire library/collection if a device becomes inoperable or they switch to a different platform. This cuts back on hoarding pirated copies of items a consumer wishes not to lose, even if they bought the product legally.

3. Release quality beta/test issues for products such as video games, allowing full previews of the product and enticing people to buy the item instead of illegally procuring it to see whether it's worth spending $60 bucks for. This cuts back tremendously on the "exploratory" type of piracy.

4. Provide quality updates and additional material and support for legally purchased products. This already has a proven track record for sales as products like AVG anti-virus software packages have shown. This does away with the need to pirate in the first place, as most of the product typically needed for the casual user is available at zero cost anyway.

5. Stop crippling content so that it only works on one device, or only works if the reader is given permission by a retailer or publisher to open the file. This again cuts back on piracy for ease of use or the sake of convenience.

6. Release quality digital works for those products that don't have them, such as movies and books. This would prevent piracy of those products to create a product where a vacuum or sub-standard product exists.

None of those options require legislation. Money (2.5+ million so far) spent lobbying for this draconian legislation would be better spent implementing these options. We live in a digital world. It's time business practices adapted to reflect that. The argument has been made that the onus for this should not be on the owners of the copyrighted material to protect it, as the pirates are the ones in the wrong, but this isn't the case. Physical store owners/proprietors assume the costs for any protection of their store from vandalism and theft, such as locks, surveillance equipment, physical security, and electronic anti-theft measures. Virtual proprietors can and are already held to the same standards and have the same laws governing property and copyright protection as physical ones.

And this is on top of the fact that this draconian legislation won't even work. At least not as it's advertised.  Its effectiveness already has work-arounds. There is already a "DeSopa" download that circumvents what they're trying to do to catch those sites and make them inaccessible. There will always be a workaround.  This means that those sites will still be available, while legitimate sites like this one will be under constant threat, subject to censor, and/or shut down.

This should be obvious to anyone at least somewhat educated on the subject, and especially to lawmakers.  Which means either they're dumb as posts and truly believe it will work, or they are doing this only for increased Internet censorship ability and the silver coin lining their pockets from the Judas-like betrayal of the media conglomerates against the constitution.


  1. We really appreciate how well you've articulated and been out front about this issue today. The net is one of the last real bastions of accessible democracy that is available to most people in this country. Assaults such as this, and all those which seek to poke holes in net neutrality, must be defended against stridently.

  2. Thank you, Julie. It's one of few things I think is important enough to get all activisty about. Thanks to a largely grassroots movement, it looks like it's becoming a big enough issue to where the threat of votes (or lack thereof) is starting to override big lobbyist money. And that is a good thing.

  3. Well said, my friend. Excellent explanation of the risks of SOPA and PIPA and the responses to fix the problems at hand. I'll be quoting you in my correspondence to my Congressmen. - Edo

  4. Glad you found it helpful, Edo. I've had a number of people tell me they'll be using those points in letters to Congress, which is great. The more people that contact them with actual intelligent commentary, the harder it will hopefully hit home for them. Maybe the tide is turning on this issue.