SOPA Delayed, But It Should Be Dead

In keeping with the goal to educate readers about the dangers of SOPA and PIPA, here is a piece by Jeremy Kolassa, originally published on December 21, 2011.

In one of the few instances of “good news,” or at least “not that terrible news,” the Stop Online Piracy Act has been delayed until after the winter recess:

WASHINGTON POST - The House Judiciary Committee confirmed Tuesday that it will delay continuing debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act until after Congress returns from its winter recess.

Committee spokeswoman Kim Smith said in an e-mailed statement that the hearing is expected to be scheduled for “early next year.”

Well, that is certainly good news on one front. It at least means they won’t be shoving it down our throat today.

But they’re going to try again. It always happens.

There was widespread outrage when TARP was first proposed, and under that public onslaught, the House of Representatives bucked its campaign contributors and shot the plan down. There was much rejoicing—until they passed it, with even more pork, four days later.

Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily what will happen with SOPA. It may come back and it may be defeated. That is certainly a possibility. But it will come back. The Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America—which I have heard sarcastically referred to, combined, as the MAFIAA—have far too much invested in controlling your Internet access and your personal computer. Do you think they’re just going to give up the possibility of more control over your lives? Of course not. No corporation that could obtain such lucrative rents from the government is going to give it up that easily.

The only thing that will stop them, I think, is when they realize that A) this is just plain foolish, and B) the costs of trying to enforce it will outweigh any imaginary “benefits” they can think of. Even though the law hasn’t been passed yet, there are already workarounds to the SOPA enforcement mechanisms. When a guy in his metaphorical basement can spend a few hours and create a mere Firefox add-on that goes around the DNS blocking, you know your bill is pretty much useless.

And that’s the thing. No matter how many laws they pass, unless they start knocking on your door and arresting millions of people, they will not stop online piracy. Period. The MAFIAA is an ossified, old-school, traditional, top-down, hierarchial corporate organizational structure. The Internet is a fresh, agile, new school, modern, non-hierarchial, horizontal (or “flat”), and has no organization to speak of (other than, perhaps, “Anonymous.”) It is completely decentralized, dependent only on individuals—and that’s what makes it so impervious to this sort of thing. You simply cannot act fast enough to counter these workarounds.

Not that the MAFIAA will ever get it through their heads. They never do. And not that any of this justifies SOPA. The delaying is a good thing. Now let’s make sure it’s dead.


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