Saturday, December 24, 2011

SOPA - the end of internet as we know it!!

Imagine an internet where you dont have video uploading websites youtube or vomio. Imagine an internet where you dont have photo uploading sites like flickr and photobucket. Imagine an internet where you can blog not by your choice, but by that or others. At the worse imagine an internet where a Google search for "download Firefox" will return no results.

An internet of this kind will not be far away if SOPA becomes a law. Let me start with the beginning. What exactly is SOPA. What restrictions it will impose and what pos and cons will it have on the present internet scenario.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), also known as H.R. 3261, is a bill that was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on October 26, 2011, by Representative Lamar Smith. The bill expands the ability of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.
Lets make it simple and Indian. If you post anything on your blog that is a copyright material then you can face trial if the copyright owner complaints about it. In the simplest of cases you will have to remove your website/blog, and in worse situations you can face trial as well. The bill would allow the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on who requests the court orders, the actions could include barring online advertising networks and payment facilitators such as PayPal from doing business with the allegedly infringing website, barring search engines from linking to such sites, and requiring Internet service providers to block access to such sites. The bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted content a felony. The bill also gives immunity to Internet services that voluntarily take action against websites dedicated to infringement, while making liable for damages any copyright holder who knowingly misrepresents that a website is dedicated to infringement. This bill will give full internet censorship to USA. This bill clearly protects the rights of US intellectual property holders around the globe. A copyright owner of USA can sue a person in India through this bill. I would say this is America's own version of "The great Firewall of China".

The bill has met with lots of protest, especially online. In one of the most popular cases, Godaddy, a famous domain service provider who supported this bill is now facing a mass boycott. People are shifting their domains from Godaddy to other service providers. The big shocker came when companies like Microsoft, Apple, Adobe and other 26 giants silently supported the bill. I will explain you why they are in support. The opposing companies published a complete add in the New York Times (nice to see Facebook and Google standing together):

Why SOPA can be a danger to internet?

Let's look at the following points to understand how this bill can be a danger to the present internet.

Bill targets more than infringing website

A Center for Democracy and Technology paper says that the bill "targets an entire website even if only a small portion hosts or links to some infringing content." What does this means? If someone posts a video on youtube that infringes copyright then the entire youtube can be brought down under this act ( nop I am in no mood for kidding !!). Well this is crazy. I think now you might have understood why Microsoft is supporting the bill. Even though a recent amendment says that the bill will not affect websites which publishes user content. So this can protect youtube,facebook etc but the bill still lays concerns about how these websites should deal with infringing content. In an excellent post, EFF has clearly mentioned how websites like vimeo, flickr and Etsy can face troubles. Read the article here.

DNS filtering

The bill says that DNS servers should filter any request from users that directs to websites which break copyrights. This means that USA can alone control the web traffic of the world to any domain or subdomain (seriously I am not kidding!!). This is clearly the biggest reason why this bill is facing a mass opposition from countries like Japan, Russia etc.

Threat to E-commerce

Sites like Ebay and amazon sell millions of products online. They contain all types of items that you can think of. Filtering contents based on copyright will be a nightmare for such companies. It will kill lot or company resource and money. Mid-size and smaller E-commerce websites will have no choice other than selling only branded products or shut down their business. (no point of kidding!!)

Threat to Online Gaming, Cloud computing and free web hosting

People have talked less about this on the internet but I want to shed some light on this issue as well. Cloud technology is greatly facilitating small and mid scale companies to run their business without worrying about resource problems. But SOPA can greatly affect the cloud market drastically. All the major cloud players are based in USA and if this act becomes a law then these companies will have to filter any content on the cloud that can infringe copyright. Now the question arises, how can these cloud service providing companies access the data of their customers? Will it not kill the very meaning of cloud? Why will I host my business data on a USA based cloud computing company then? (tough to say that I am not kidding!!)

Threat to information

Last but not the least. As I said earlier that this bill will create America's version of "The Great Firewall of China" as it will force the DNS servers to filter out any copyright infringing website/blog from its users. Search engines like Google and Yahoo! will have to start filtering for search contents. Well the question again comes. Can you imagine how much resource will be needed to filter out 32 million US requests every minute for Google.

SOPA has really created a dirty scene on the internet. Looking at the mass protest against this bill, Microsoft and Apple have finally showed some support for the bill by saying that "It needs to be worked on". But this is not enough. Maybe its the time when all the internet companies should stand up together and forget their rivalry and greed for some time because if this Act becomes a Law then Only God Can Save The INTERNET.
You can read the complete SOPA Act here. Download.



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