Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ANS -- How Would SOPA/PIPA be Enforced?

Here is Brad Hicks' take on the SOPA and PIPA laws currently being considered.  Apparently, if passed, they will a) shut down the internet, all emails, and twitter completely, and b) make us all "guilty" of a crime so "they" can come for us whenever "they" want.
As I said before, not passing these laws is really important.
If it does pass, I will have to stop publishing this bulletin, too. 
find it here: 


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How Would SOPA/PIPA be Enforced?

  • Jan. 18th, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Brad @ Burning Man
It's taken me a long time to feel like I even needed to say anything about the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act bills that are floating through Congress, even knowing (thanks to Wikileaks' Cablegate) that the US State Department is threatening every other country on the globe with crippling trade sanctions if they don't pass their own version of this bill this year. It's a horrific bill, but one I couldn't take seriously at first because it is, in every version floating around, as flatly impossible to obey as King Canute's legendary law forbidding the tide from coming in. No matter how much lobbying money is thrown at an impossible idea, no matter how many campaign contributions were made, no matter how much of the US's remaining export economy depends on the industry backing an impossible idea, I had a hard time taking seriously the idea that Congress would really, when push come to shove, try to ban all user-created content on the Internet: no more email, no more Twitter, no more Facebook, no more YouTube, no more LOLcats, no more discussion forums, no more comment pages on articles, no more blogs.

The only way to actually enforce SOPA or PIPA as written would be to do just that. SOPA and PIPA give the US Attorney General the unilateral authority to order not just any tweet or email or web page or blog post, but the whole site that hosts it, permanently off of the Internet if even one link is found on it, anywhere, that "facilitates" copyright infringement. That's a term that's been interpreted so broadly, in some court cases, as to include "linked to a web site where, by clicking on this button, then this button, then this button, you could find a link to a specific page on a different website, where, if you clicked down three layers from that page, you could find infringing content." When the lawyer arguing this was asked if there was any limit to that, he said no. He was laughed out of court, because it was pointed out that this argument, if accepted, outlawed the whole Internet, as the whole point of the World Wide Web was that, given enough clicks, you can navigate from any non-dead-end site to any page on the web. But SOPA and PIPA won't end up in court, because they don't create any actual judicial review process, or allow any judicial appeal: if anybody asks the Attorney General to knock an entire site off of the Internet for just this reason, and he or she agrees, it goes down, period, end of story. So the only way that any website on the Internet could comply with SOPA and PIPA is to never, ever allow anything to be posted to their site that could in any way be, or be decrypted to suggest how to find, a link to a site that might have on it, anywhere, an equally vague and hard to find link to infringing content. The process for guaranteeing the safety of each 140 character tweet, each 100px by 100px user avatar icon, each link-shortened URL to a baby picture on a picture hosting site, each text caption embedded in a video of a cute kitten, didn't link to or describe how to find any site? Can't be done. Especially can't be done if you do allow supposedly non-infringing links, because let's say you review the URL today, and tomorrow something else is up at that URL? And how do you review the URL anyway; does somebody have to go read every comment on every review on every product at if I link to Amazon? Can't be done.

But the law's going to pass anyway. Or so they say. And the Internet is Made of Cats. Sociologists and political scientists studying the Arab Spring have accepted this as literal truth, in a way: governments being threatened by the Arab Spring could shut down any website that was only useful to the opposition, but if the opposition used Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, no matter how badly architected those websites were for safe use by an illegal opposition, the governments couldn't block them -- blocking grandparents from seeing their grandbabies on Twitter or Flicker, blocking everybody in the country from seeing Maru or Keyboard Cat on YouTube, caused more political blowback than letting the activists use them. So no, not even in the post-9/11 national security state, not even the United States is going to enforce SOPA or PIPA as written. No, really, I meant it when I said it: it can't be done. Which made it hard for me to take the proposed laws seriously ...

Until I realized the only way they could be enforced.

The MPAA and the RIAA, Sony and Bertelsmann and Disney, et al, wave aside all claims that SOPA or PIPA will be used to ban all user-originated content. They say that the law is written to be as draconian, and instantaneous, and without appeal as it is because no other plausible law, nothing short of that that's been tried, lets them take down obviously infringing sites like Pirate Bay and Torrent Freak without them being able to set up new, mirrored sites faster than DMCA takedowns can take them off the air. They want a broad law that gives one person, the Attorney General of the United States, the authority and the power and the responsibility to know a pirate site when he or she sees one, and trusts that person to never abuse that power, to only use it to protect America's last remaining profitable export industry from never being able to sell more than one copy of every movie or song ever again. They want the rest of us to have the same trust that they obviously have: that this power will never be abused.

No Democratic appointee will ever find a whistle-blower report on the Drudge Report or Fox News websites that they don't like, find (or fabricate, or just baldly dishonestly allege) that there is an infringing link in a comment thread on one of the news articles, and order that site knocked off the Internet. No Republican appointee will ever find an anti-war or an anti-oil-industry news story they don't like on Democracy Now or MSNBC and order those websites taken off the Internet, permanently, the same way. Why can we trust this? Is there something in the law that would protect those websites from that kind of abuse? No. Is there anything that would penalize the Attorney General for doing that? No. Is there anything to stop them from doing it as often as necessary to shut down all political opposition that would publicize the fact that they'd done this, going into the next election? No. So why are we supposed to trust that it will never happen? Just "because." Because we need it not to. Because we need this law, or the pirates will sink our economy, so we'll just half to hope that it never happens.

It took me until today to realize that the rule of law, not men, has fallen into such disrepute that this may actually pass.
  • Mood: worried worried



( 8 comments ­ Leave a comment )
[info] eggshellhammer wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that SOPA's not going to pass, it's pretty much dead in the water. Where are you getting your information?
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Brad @ Burning Man
[info] bradhicks wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
SOPA's vote has been canceled, and the President is threatening a veto, but the sponsors say that it will be re-debated in February. PIPA, which is the same bill in the other house of Congress, is still scheduled to be voted on on the 24th.
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[info] hugh_mannity wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
Yep. It's too good bad an idea for it not to come into force in one guise or another.

Not just because it ensures Hollywood's revenue stream, but also because it allows the government to shut down protest. And there's nothing the government (and democrat or republican, it doesn't matter -- they're 2 sides of the same coin) would like to do more than remove all protest -- other than the pro-forma official party vs. party stuff that is.

Bring on the police state -- let's get it over with sooner rather than later!
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Brad @ Burning Man
[info] bradhicks wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
It does boggle my mind that people who've spent the last three years convinced that Obama was going to come for their guns aren't afraid that he's going to come for their websites.
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[info] sethg_prime wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC)
The bill won't shut down piracy in the "go download torrents of such-and-such a movie" sense. What it will do is shut down companies with business models involving fair use of copyrighted material, because from day one, such companies will have to rigorously censor themselves, invest heavily in legal protection, or cut deals with Hollywood.
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[info] rowyn wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
Yep. It doesn't matter that the law is ridulous and makes the whole web in violation for existing, because they have no intention of shutting down the web. They just want a handy excuse to make us all lawbreakers, so that whenever they don't like something someone's done for whatever reason, they can mete out punishment without need for bothering with all that messy proof stuff.
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[info] laplor wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
Exactly! When everyone is guilty, everyone is in danger of prosecution - it's ultra-Orwellian.
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[info] silveradept wrote:
Jan. 18th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
Related to this, when would you place the first obvious evidence that media cabals have been able to get whatever they want through the purchase of legislators?

It seems like this is the continuation of the regular amounts of legislation that extends copyright whenever one of their properties is about to go to the public domain. Just to the point where they've realized they can't contain the new methods any more.
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( 8 comments ­ Leave a comment )

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