DIY Satellites and Filesharing Religions: SOPA’s new enemies
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 January 12, 2012.
Going off of my colleague Ron Davis’ post about technological reasons to oppose that monstrosity known as SOPA (and it’s Senate twin, PIPA), here are a couple of news stories from earlier in the month to share with you. I am a bit late on these, I admit, but I want to place them here just to show how ineffectual SOPA will actually be.
The first “solution” will probably fail and end in misery and a fireball, but you have to give some credit to these guys: a group of hackers want to send up a satellite that will act as an independent file-sharing server, a sort of space age Sealand:
The scheme was outlined at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.
The project’s organisers said the Hackerspace Global Grid will also involve developing a grid of ground stations to track and communicate with the satellites.
Longer term they hope to help put an amateur astronaut on the moon.
Hobbyists have already put a few small satellites into orbit - usually only for brief periods of time - but tracking the devices has proved difficult for low-budget projects.
The hacker activist Nick Farr first put out calls for people to contribute to the project in August. He said that the increasing threat of internet censorship had motivated the project.
“The first goal is an uncensorable internet in space. Let’s take the internet out of the control of terrestrial entities,” Mr Farr said.
He cited the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in the United States as an example of the kind of threat facing online freedom. If passed, the act would allow for some sites to be blocked on copyright grounds.
First of all, SOPA and censorship aside, this is awesome. We have individuals desiring to put up a satellite all on their own, without government involvement. This is the free market at work, people, and its glorious. Maybe in a few decades we can all send up satellites? Definitely, they’re ambitious—an amateur astronaut on the Moon? Sign me up!—but what is life without ambition?
Likely, however, such a satellite would be shot down by some power, if it ever made it off the launch pad. I doubt any launching company would want to send up a satellite intended for filesharing and to bypass copyright restrictions for fear of being targeted in lawsuits by media companies and perhaps even national governments (if those governments didn’t just send in cops to prevent the launch in the first place.) If these guys were able to obtain the support of a “terrestrial entity,” as they call nations, then perhaps it would work.
Still, a person can dream. Some dreams are even prophetic, with religious connotations…which is my very poor segue into the next solution: create a filesharing religion! No, I’m not on crack, the Swedes have really done it:
The Church of Kopimism has been registered as a religious organization by the Swedish governmental agency Kammarkollegiet, it said on Wednesday.
For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament, it said in a statement, and adds that information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organization and its members.
Well, that’s certainly an interesting hypothesis. Kind of a new age twist on the whole “go forth and multiply” rule.
Kammarkollegiet confirms the registration, which was approved in December. The registration will have very few direct consequences, according to Bertil Kallner, general counsel at Kammarkollegiet. It is the first step if the Church of Kopimism wants to get help from the government to collect membership fees, but that has to be approved by the government and is a much more demanding process. Also, the church isn’t interested in that at this point, according to spiritual leader Isak Gerson.
However, being recognized by the state of Sweden is still a big step. Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when they can “live out their faith without fear of persecution”, Gerson said.
A-yep. Torrenters have created their own religion in Sweden to protect filesharing. “All hail μTorrent.”
Would this ever get ground in America? Doubtful. Sweden is a much more open-minded country, and they are, in general, far less religous than Americans (even though they have a state church.) It would never fly in the country of apple pie, college football, and Jesus Christ (who I heard was playing for ‘Bama this year.)
The point is that these things show how creative people get when confronting government regulation. The government—and by extension, the corporate sponsors of these bills—are simply not agile enough to respond to all of the possible workarounds of SOPA and PIPA. It’s not even technological, as the Church of Kopimism shows; you just have to believe in it strongly enough, and you’ll find some way.
Now, that’s not to say I believe in online piracy myself. I agree with Tom Knighton that intellectual property does exist, and perhaps needs to, if we’re going to have creative people create new works of art. Why would they if there was no incentive to do so? Why would they if they couldn’t pay their bills? They’d just go work in McDonalds. However, developments over the past half-century in copyright enforcement have gone too far the other way. The cure, in this case, is far worse than the disease, if it even works at all.