The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been the subject of much tension across the inter-webs. The Act, which hopes to prevent copyright infringement on the web, has been protested by everyone from Google’s CEO to the founders of Twitter.Thursday the markup on SOPA before the House Judiciary Committee occurred and SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, released an updated version of SOPA earlier this week,  But what does SOPA really mean for the future of the internet?

Geoff Brigham at Wikimedia Blog makes a compelling argument that the controversial bill will lead to internet censorship. He writes:


SOPA represents the flawed proposition that censorship is an acceptable tool to protect rights owners’ private interests in particular media.  That is, SOPA would block entire foreign websites in the United States as a response to remove from sight select infringing material.  This is so even when other programs like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have found better balances without the use of such a bludgeon.


Ars Technica is reporting that the co-founders of some of the Internet’s most successful startups have put out a letter, which is slated to appear in tomorrow (I guess technically today’s) New York Times condemning the Stop Online Piracy Act. The letter argues that SOPA will hinder future web based start-ups  threaten online security measures and “censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.”

Does the bill go too far? Why not just continue to employ the DMCA, instead of adding the proposed measures? Brigham warns in his Wikimedia Blog post, “I’ve been asked for a legal opinion. And, I will tell you, in my view, the new version of SOPA remains a serious threat to freedom of expression on the Internet.”

Brigham gives an extensive list of problems with SOPA the most convincing of which is the undermining the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Instead of the typical DMCA procedures the procedures shifts to a procedure where the crime becomes ” the link, [to the infringing website] not the copyright violation.  The cost is litigation, not a simple notice.” DMCA currently requires that notice of infringement be given to the ISP, who then must remove the infringing material. With SOPA the regime changes to one of imposing federal litigation directed at the infringing website, instead of the old notice and take down procedures. This is not only less efficient, but it is far more expensive. 

In addition, SOPA could serve to undermine security measures on the internet by no longer mandating DNS blocking. As Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge, explained:  “The amendment continues to encourage DNS blocking and filtering, which should be concerning for Internet security expert”

The overall concerns with SOPA are simple: It appears, on it’s face, to be internet censorship that decreases overall internet security. Additionally, it appears that the result of this censorship is an increase in litigation.The end result is rising litigation costs and an inefficient system of policing the internet. Less expression, more litigation. The future of the internet. 




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