Hello my IT friends –
Regardless on which side of this you land, I hope you understand the issues behind Wikipedia’s (and many sites’, including mine) “blackout” yesterday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate.
These bills are what we in the information security community call “Trojan Horses.” They look like an effective way to keep sites from dealing in stolen music, movies and so on – which is a good motivation, with lots of good arguments behind it. Unfortunately, these bills would basically create new Federal powers that everyone across the political spectrum would protest: they eliminate two key Constitutional protections that are critical to our rights as citizens.
Due Process is what we’re talking about when we say “you can’t search my house without a warrant.” I kinda like having that right, personally. But in the case of websites, all it takes is a complaint, and whammo, that site is gone for good. No judge, no warrant, no consideration, nada. I do not like the Feds getting this kind of practice enshrined in law.
Redress means I get to know my accuser, and I get to see the charges against me. It also means that I have legal freedom to defend myself and to pursue monetary damages if those charges cause me harm and turn out to be false. If they were knowingly false, then there’s extra money involved. But under SOPA/PIPA, all someone has to do is file a complaint, and blammo, Google is down. Just like that.
It may sound like I exaggerate, so please don’t take it from me:
“This means that YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Gmail, Dropbox and millions of other sites would be ‘Internet sites…dedicated to theft of U.S. property,’ under SOPA’s definition. Simply providing a feature that would make it possible for someone to commit copyright infringement or circumvention…is enough to get your entire site branded as an infringing site.”
Ben Ray Lujan supports SOPA in the House.
Jeff Bingaman supports PIPA in the Senate.