Monday, January 23, 2012

I'm so anti SOPA that I'm Pro-SOPA

Why the free world missed a trick in getting SOPA stopped, and why the people pushing SOPA are so stupid we might get the chance again (in fact it's probably inevitable).

As of the last couple of days it was announced that the SOPA and PIPA were shelved, much to the relief of the vast majority of informed internet users (including myself). However upon reflection I realised that given the way things actually would have turned out, It may well have been preferable for the act to go through.

Here are the facts as I see them. I can and will elaborate on each point, but just run with me here...

1) The people who wrote SOPA and PIPA are either adorably out of touch, mind numbingly stupid, or profoundly corrupt, or more likely some mix of all three. The point being they are probably incapable of setting a VCR, let alone understanding the issues of the internet well enough to just start messing with it. They certainly do not see any of the following issues..

2) The main "stick" in SOPA is based on delisting a site from DNS (the "phone book of the internet") .This will not work, and my short proof for this is that it has done nothing to stop spam.

3) SOPA enabled pretty much anyone to lay a complaint, and have it enforced without even notification, let alone due process. Con-men, people with fake medical treatments, dishonest financial advisers, even a simple commercial rival could shut down entire websites - without evidence.
In short, honest people would be forced off the internet

4) Although DNS is important to the internet, it is not essential. There are ways to override it, and there are certainly ways to do without it, but no-one really cares since it does the job without fuss.
If honest people were forced off DNS, alternative systems would spring up overnight, but unlike the existing systems, and due to their inherent clandestine nature would be locked down secure. Not only would it be difficult/impossible to trace data sources (using system designs like TOR) or alternate DNS systems, the systems would probably masquerade in such a way as it would be impossible to distinguish them from other internet traffic. Also (obviously) these systems would be beyond control of anyone (this is a good thing).

This means a new level of the internet would be created(or multiple versions of) that would be beyond the reach of any government (or Record label), or any legislation a redneck politician throws together. There would be issues, and probably annoying plugins, and various takedowns and cat and mouse games, but as long as there was an IP connection, there could be unfettered, unmonitored and uncontrolled communication, and isn't that what the internet was supposed to be about in the first place?

The truth is this legislation will return. The people with the money are too greedy and don't understand the technology. The politicians have no idea about the technology, and don't care about the people who elected them. Something will be forced through, sooner or later, and it will only take a few legitimate users being removed to get this ball rolling.

So what?
Illegal downloading is forcing this issue to a head, but it is an issue that we are fast approaching for other reasons.
Our right to privacy is not just being taken away, we are being put in a situation where we are obliged to give it away for free.
The tides of individual freedom are still receding, but they will turn, and a stupid action like the SOPA bill probably would have caused a reaction that would have significantly redressed the balance, or at least forced it to a head. We will need to wait for something like this again... but maybe not too long.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstien