Today is January 18th and the internet is exploding about SOPA... Google and Wikipedia are crying to tell people to do something about it. Well so whats the big deal... It is supposed to be for the good reasons right? Fight piracy and stuff you know...
What is SOPA?
I don't even know what it stands for, but the whole purpose seems to be limit the access of internet users to certain websites by forcing internet service providers to block these sites. Also there is whole lot about forcing big companies like google to exclude pirated content from their search results... not that it wasn't done already, they just want to streamline the process. So say there is a website piratedmusic.nom that illegally shares the music of Pop Star. Before SOPA what the Pop Star could do is file a thingy to say google, to exclude any results from priatedmusic.nom from appearing in the search results. Also they could sue the owners of the website, and if the owner happened to be in US or Canada chances are their website would go down... say in a month or something... one way or another, either the owner would close in fear of legal prosecution and loss reimbursement or the government would close it for them through court order. Now what happens if this site is registered in some third world country and the owner is friend of Borat living in some small village in Kazakstan? The search results would of course be excluded from google, but there is no chance that site would get closed, no matter how many lawyers or money the Pop Star has. Now what SOPA is trying to accomplish is that to allow Pop Star to send an email to the internet providers and have them block the access to piratedmusic.nom in a matter of hours or minutes.
Why it wouldn't work?
Now the computer guy in me is just laughing aloud... it's a dark evil laugh... The reason why it wouldn't work (at least in near future) is because the internet was built in a way to allow communicate 2 computers plugged on the internet no matter what obstacles are on their way. SOPA may block the access to piratedmusic.nom but anyone with basic understanding of how internet works would use the direct address of that site and would still be able to reach it. IP address anyone? Basically a dot separated combination of numbers.. like phone number. Now you'd ask why can't they block that too? Uh.. there is a lot of technical($$$$$$) problems with that and it would really violate your right of privacy. If blocking a site name would be similar to disconnecting someone's phone number from the call center so that you can't reach them, then blocking their direct(IP) address would be similar to tapping your phone to see who are you calling, and then disconnecting you based on that. And even if they eventually do that, there are so many ways around that... For someone determined to pirating working around this problem would be more of an enjoyable fun thing to do rather than a real obstacle.
So why is SOPA bad after all?
First of all it's inefficient in fight with piracy as I stated above. But the real concerning problem is that if SOPA becomes a reality the Internet providers and big companies like google would have to implement a global, streamlined lock-down mechanism to basically block any given website or computer on the internet. You'd think that US government has that capability already... websites hosted inside US - yes probably matter of a phone call, outside the country not really... In some cases it might be for them easier to bomb the communication point of the web server that provides a website than blocking it or hacking it... no joke. I am not anti-government or anything, just trying to present my understanding of facts. Also if you didn't know SOPA really would only affect US people... these blocked sites would be blocked only in US, while the rest of the world would still be able to access them without a problem. I am little afraid that once such powerful internet site blocking mechanism becomes a reality, these mechanisms may be misused one day to block websites like Wikileaks, etc... Who said government has the right to censor the information or prohibit someone's evening walks on the Pirate B...each... It's like preventing someone from walking on street at night, because they might be looking a robbery victim...
Why are the big internet companies against SOPA?
This is so obvious... Implementing the lock-down mechanisms to comply with SOPA would require enormous amount of money... The way I see it, the government always wanted such system in place, but it would never be economically reasonable to do it... But now given that all major movie and music companies are complaining about piracy and their author rights, and there is a chance to lay the hard work on the rich internet companies - why not? But that's really not the only reason... many big internet companies have engineer's spirit, and from scientific point of view something like SOPA is against the whole idea of the internet.
DISCLAIMER: This article presents a personal, pretty much careless opinion about the internet censorship legislation. For more technical information about SOPA do your own research! And think about it, and make your own judgments!