NOTE: This page has been edited since publication to add this note, and remove my Tw***** account. The latter is no longer active due to a change of management in 2022.
I have long opposed in principle the expansion of IP enforcement legislation. Now, it’s clear that I need to be doing something substantial about it. I’m undecided due to ignorance on PRO-IP, but I’m opposed to the anti-circumventing provisions in the DMCA. I think it’s important for society as a whole that we can take our toys apart and tinker with them—especially as microcomputing hardware gets so cheap that software shows up in ever more applications and devices.
Regarding SOPA and PIPA specifically, the internet’s dirty secret is that the US still effectively owns it. Google, Bing, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, VeriSign, ICANN: all American. That gives SOPA teeth, because these companies would be affected by American “Disappear the site!” legislation, but also makes SOPA a threat US leadership by maximizing the incentive for foreign services to replace the American ones.
(I’m not entirely in favor of unilateral American control of the Internet, but I think all of the pro-SOPA factions are, which adds to the mystery. Do they really know what they’re doing up there on Capitol Hill?)
Aside from the problems with the technical implementation of SOPA and PIPA, there’s a more troubling thing underlying it: rightsholders become a protected vigilante class, able to strike down some websites without any sort of check or balance. All it takes is a letter saying “Destroy it” and it’s gone. The potential for abuse here, from an industry that has demonstrated its cavalier attitude towards such things, is immense. Cutting off the money supply makes it even harder for legitimate victims of the process (who can hardly get into a US court on a good day) to achieve justice.
The goal of ACTA, as far as I know (and the authors would prefer I didn’t know anything about it), is to export US Copyright Craziness to the rest of the world, whether their people want it or not. It’s like our overly broad domestic laws, in convenient international form.
Fundamentally, the question is: does the US stand for liberty and justice for all, or merely a limited simulation of it?
This is why I’m against SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA. IP enforcement is possibly overzealous already, and threatening the entire US itself with irrelevance is certainly not the path to even greater profit. Power always expands; it’s up to us to stop it.
Let’s do this thing.
January 19, 2012