SOPA – What does it all mean?
Written by Mike Hoffman Friday, 30 December 2011
The official position of Arvixe is against SOPA. This is an educational article informing blog readers about the current SOPA bill and its potential impact on the web hosting industry.
Over the span of the last two months, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)  has garnered much attention and criticism. In a nutshell, this bill was designed and proposed to help protect artists and intellectual property owners. Sharing and illegal downloading of music, movies, and software has been very prevalent since the inception of the internet, and even beforehand – some of our older readers might remember swapping floppy discs for the latest computer games. This bill also extends to the realm of counterfeit goods, such as purses and perscription drugs sold online.
SOPA would allow the US Justice Department to seek court orders against websites that host or provide access to these illegal goods. Proposed on October 26th, the CEO of the BBB says that online piracy costs companies billions of dollars a year . We are all very familiar with the suits brought against sites like Napster, which were easy to bring down under US law since all facets of the website were in the US domain .
Other rogue sites, such as thepiratebay.org, have scoffed in the face of lawmakers and the court system in general. They have found a safe zone by hosting their sites in countries where these laws do not apply. They even created a page dedicated to many vein attempts to shut down the site . Other sites that host streaming TV shows and movies seem to pop up faster than they can be shut down – a Hydra of sorts, making it impossible for copyright holders to keep up to speed with taking down the material. So what are lawmakers to do?
Under a great deal of pressure from the recording industry and other large American corporations, congress developed SOPA. Instead of attacking the site itself, it allows the government to effectively make it disappear. Just think – when you enter in a website such as www.arvixe.com, how does the website reach your computer? The SOPA bill would allow the government to demand that search engines, ISP’s, and other intermediary content providers blacklist the targeted site, making it virtually inaccessible to users. So instead of cutting off the head of the proverbial dragon – they will just cave it into a mountain where it will never see the light of day again.
In what I believe to be a lesser problem, the government can also force Paypal and credit card companies to cease payments from a particular site.
So why all the criticism? At face value, SOPA sounds like the best solution to help end online piracy (in the US, at least) once and for all. Unfortunately, the bill is believed to be written poorly, and way too broadly . This means that sites simply associated with streaming content – and not even providing it – can and will be targeted. Additionally, true pirates can be sidestep most of this. Unless a governing body is constantly monitoring the sites, sites could simply create a new Paypal account. The pirate sites could pop up under a new domain as well, making this sound like a trip down a deep and never ending rabbit hole of regulation. Here is a direct quote from an open letter, written and signed by top Silicon Valley CEO’s and directors :
[This] legislation threaten[s] to:
- Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;
- Deny website owners the right to due process of law;
- Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and
- Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.
What would this mean for users such as yourself? First and foremost, it would most likely usher in a vast change to the landscape of the internet. Posting a link to a streaming copy of your favorite TV show on Facebook now makes Facebook directly liable for providing a link to the content. The crawlers and spiders that search engines use to harvest results for searches would have to be significantly altered to somehow ignore potentially “illegal” sites. Finally, there is no due process for the sites that are found in violation – meaning that the government could simply shut down a site with no warning.
Just recently, an American data center in the US was raided by the FBI . A dozen servers were taken out of service due to one site hosting illegal content, leaving hundreds of other customers on the server high and dry, while the datacenter rushed to get the backup restored as fast as humanly possible. A passing of SOPA would only encourage such behavior, burdening hosting companies nationwide to create plans to protect their customers, or somehow monitor the content being hosted on their servers. The latter, of course, being nearly impossible to do.
A simple search on the subject will yield hundreds (if not thousands) of angry posts and editorials detesting this bill. In fact, the only supporters seem to be big corporations. Famously, GoDaddy was an initial proponent of the bill. They sidestepped the issue in press releases when asked for details. A protest was staged, called “National Leave GoDaddy Day” where in 24 hours, over 35,000 customers transferred their data and domains to other providers . After this, their opinion promptly changed. Even Wikipedia is considering a mock blackout to exemplify the possible affect the bill would have on internet free speech .
In summary, the SOPA bill will most likely be revised and resumbitted for vote at Congress. It has been officially tabled until 2012, giving lawmakers and citizens enough time to agree on a safe middle ground.
Please write your opinions below! We’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.
More information can be found at the Wikipedia page <LINK>
 – Full Text via Library of Congress <LINK>
 – “Rogue Websites Endanger Victims and Cost Billions Every Year” <LINK>
 – “Napster Settles Suits” <LINK>
 – “Legal Threats Against The PIrate Bay” <LINK>
 – “Pros and Cons of SOPA” <LINK>
 – “Top tech execs write open letter opposing SOPA (full text)” <LINK>
 – “FBI Data Center Raid Disrupts Instapaper” <LINK>
 – “Burned By Fleeing Customers, GoDaddy No Longer Just ‘Doesn’t Support’ But Actually “OPPOSES” SOPA” <LINK>
 – “So far, 87% of Wikipedians support an anti-SOPA blackout” <LINK>