SOPA and PIPA What SOPA and PIPA are at face value and what they could end up enabling
SOPA and PIPA
- Let's say that you´re the owner of some type of copyrighted material-
- maybe it's a movie, maybe it's music of some kind-
- and you observe that there is a site that is operating
- outside of the United States and that site-at least in your mind-
- seems to be infringing on your copyright by US law.
- So this is the site in question - and you're saying that it is doing illegal things, at least by US standards.
- The problem is that there's nothing you can do -
- it's operating outside of US soil and outside of US laws.
- You can even go to the government, even if the government wanted to do something about it,
- it really couldn't. Because once again, it's outside the US jurisdiction.
- The purpose of SOPA-and it seems fairly benign at first-
- is to give some tools to these actors to stop this.
- The problem-and we´ll see that it's quite a large problem-
- is that it gives tools to these actors to do much more than just stopping illegal activity;
- it allows them essentially to go on, to some degree, a kind of a witch hunt
- for anyone that might even have a whiff of enabling this type of activity.
- -it won´t even just be for foreign sites.
- So let's write this down, so SOPA stands for:
- Stop Online Piracy Act -
- and it sounds pretty reasonable -
- and this is the version of the bill that's coming from the House of Representatives.
- The one from the Senate, that's slightly different
- but they have the same intent, is PIPA [Protect IP Act].
- And what it does is, if you can´t go after this site itself
- maybe you can go after sites that is somehow benefiting this site.
- And those sites are inside the United States.
- So this is outside, this is inside the United States.
- So things that are doing that might include search engines.
- So search engines like Google or Bing.
- They obviously link to this site over here. You might have ad networks -
- so sites that allow this site over here to display ads and to get revenue from them -
- that are benefiting this site over here.
- You might have payment sites like PayPal
- or credit card processors that this site uses to collect revenue.
- And, maybe most importantly, you have things like the DNS servers within the US
- that associate this site's domain name with the actual servers.
- And I wont get too technical about it, but when you type in
- something like www.shady.foreign
- , and once again, we´re gonna see that this site might
- not even have to be shady or foreign-
- but when you type something like that in -
- there´re servers in the United states that associate that with these servers
- that might be operated outside the United States - that associate this text with a number
- that points to this website, that points to this website's servers.
- So these are all things within the United States -
- that to some degree this site is dependent on.
- So what SOPA does is, it allows these actors here -
- the ones that are obviously concerned with enforcing their copyrights -
- to issue court orders and notices to these actors right over here
- that essentially compels them, very strongly, to immediately
- cut off ties with this illegal site - or what they think is an illegal site.
- Now that might seem reasonable to you, except for the fact that
- it's kind of a "shoot first and think later" type of policy.
- The basic way it works is, you presume guilt until this guy
- somehow tries to prove his innocence and we´ll see
- this guy isn't necessarily outside the US.
- It might even be completely legal, or what I would consider
- completely legal sites inside the US.
- Essentially as soon as this allegation is made and either a court order
- or a notice is payed, these enablers have to cut off ties to this site -
- and you can imagine that if these cut off ties to this site,
- - this sites´ business - whatever it might be - whether illegal or legal,
- immediately gets obliterated, especially this one here
- including search engines, ad networks and payments.
- And if they don´t comply then these guys are going to start having a legal battle.
- So these guys are not only going to have to comply-and that by itself is hard-
- but if they don´t comply, then they themselves are going to be in trouble.
- Now it gets really obviously creepy, when you start
- going into - so when you think of this - you´re like
- okay, so maybe we can work around this a little bit.
- But it gets creepy when you even know this is the spirit of the legislation,
- when you actually read the wording of the legislation-
- and obviously that's what matters, not the name or the intent-
- But actually how it's worded-I mean, the way it's worded
- - it´s pretty clear that its intent is to go after much more
- than just a site that's explicitly selling illegal pharmaceuticals or
- allowing people to download movies or, or videos or music
- that these owners don´t have access to.
- When you read the wording, it's pretty clear that they want to be able
- to shut down anything that is in any way associating with itself -
- or in any way enabling it.
- And you see it in the wording. So this is actually section 1.0.3 of the SOPA legislation
- - and this is how they define a site that is dedicated to theft of US property.
- So an internet site is dedicated to theft of US property if -
- and, so you know, it's useable by people in the United States -
- and this is interesting: It´s "primarily designed or operated for the purpose of,"
- "has only limited purpose or use other than,"
- "or is marketed by its operator or another acting in concert"
- "with that operator for use in, offering goods or services in a manner"
- "that engages in, enables, or facilitates" - now this is interesting -
- enables or facilitates all of these violations.
- And these are the violations that would be illegal:
- You´re selling things that you can´t sell,
- you´re infringing on other people´s copyright.
- And it might seem harmless, this "enables, or facilitates", until you think about
- what that could encapsulate.
- If I have a site, like this, I am part of a site: Khan Academy
- Let´s say someone puts a message on Khan Academy
- and from Khan Academy they link to a site that actually is really illegal
- and that is really shady and they link to it in the message boards.
- Well, under this am I enabling, is Khan Academy enabling or facilitating?
- And if that's the case, then Khan Academy - by this definition -
- would be considered to be a site that is dedicated to theft of US property.
- And there are much bigger players than just Khan Academy,
- that can be thrown into this bucket, players like YouTube or Vimeo or any site.
- Or even a news site, that allows people to put comments,
- or allows people to put images, things like Flickr.
- That maybe had - in some way - their users infringing on the copyright
- now all of the sudden the whole site - based on this definition - the entire site
- can be defined as a site dedicated to theft of US property.
- By this definition YouTube could be that, if it's viewed in kind of
- enabling or facilitating.
- Khan Academy, any news site could be viewed like that.
- Vimeo could be viewed that way,
- a photo sharing site could be viewed like that.
- People might take a photo or something that they don´t have the copyright
- and upload an image and all the sudden - by this definition -
- based on just a sense that that's being violated,
- they won´t just be able to shut down these illegal sites;
- they would be able to shut down things like YouTube, or Vimeo,
- or even things like CNN.com, if someone puts a message
- or an image, that they think is somehow violating.
- And so it's not just going-right now the methodology is,
- if there is some content on YouTube or Vimeo or some other site,
- that they feel is infringing on their copyright,
- there are laws, where they contact YouTube directly,
- they point them to the content, that seems to be infringing
- and YouTube, or Vimeo, or whoever will take down that content.
- But what this allows them to do is shoot first and think later:
- "Oh, look: You´re enabling that"; if they could convince some court
- to give a court order, they can start giving notice to these players right over here
- to cut off ties with major - what I would consider very legal sites -
- like YouTube or Vimeo or CNN.
- It´s really almost any site that allows people to upload things onto it,
- or put links on it, which is almost - Facebook is another one -
- anything that has user generated content.
- On just a whim they could take down the entire site -
- not just take down that user generated content -
- they could, on just convincing one judge, or convincing just any of these,
- they could cut off ties with Facebook.
- Not even making Facebook.com point to Facebook anymore.
- CNN - they could just completely take down these sites on a whim.
- And it gets worse than that, because you would say:
- "well, look, if they can take this down on a whim and, you know,"
- "maybe they kind of thought it was, but they didn't do their homework"
- "and then they realize that it wasn't copyright infringement,"
- "couldn't these guys sue back?"-although, already, the damage would have been done,
- these sites would have been taken down;
- they would have lost millions or billions of dollars;
- millions, or tens or hundreds of millions, of users would not be able to access these things
- and this would also be true for Wikipedia,
- if someone uploaded something that wasn't completely, 100%, vetted,
- they could take down the entire site, not just that content.
- And you say: "Okay, that's bad enough!"
- "But couldn't these people say: `Hey, look, you wrongfully took us down,`"
- "`we´re going to sue you now`". Well to see that they can´t and
- to see how one-sided this legislation is, notice:
- The threshold for being able to sued back, if you kind of
- misrepresented a violation - the only way you´re kind of held
- accountable is if you knowingly, materially misrepresented the violation.
- So, if the copyright holder just says: "Oh, I think someone on YouTube"-you know-
- "I feel pretty good that someone on YouTube is violating"
- and that YouTube is enabling a violation and, therefore, YouTube
- is a site dedicated to theft of US property and it later on
- it finds out that it wasn't, it was fair use or maybe that person
- actually did have the copyright to it,
- they can´t be sued, because they said: "Oh, I just thought it was";
- they weren't knowingly materially misrepresenting themselves.
- So even if it ends up not even being a violation, these guys
- could take the site down. Maybe some small producers actually
- secured the rights, put it up on YouTube and then,
- all of the sudden, these guys take down all of YouTube based on
- not actually knowing what they are talking about.
- And there can´t even be a counter suit in that case, based on the law.
- And it gets even creepier than that, because to be considered this
- you don´t even just have to enable or facilitate - which is almost anything-
- one could argue a computer is enabling or facilitating this on some level.
- But you are considered to be a site dedicated to theft of US property,
- even if you do nothing illegal, even if you don´t enable anything illegal,
- but if you just take actions that make it difficult for authorities to confirm
- that you´re doing something illegal. So if you view this in the physical world:
- obviously, some people are doing illegal things in their homes
- and, obviously, some people lock their doors to keep people out of their homes.
- And maybe people are doing illegal things, it would even be
- more likely to lock their doors and close their shutters.
- What this would do-and this would do it in the virtual sense-
- is say: "Look! Just by taking the deliberate action of closing your shutters"
- "and looking your doors, which makes it hard for federal agents to confirm"
- "that you´re doing illegal things - just by doing that - that itself is an illegal act".
- This is maybe one of the creepiest and draconian Intrusions of privacy,
- that I have actually heard of,
- that was even attempted to be passed into law.
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