Security

SOPA shelved for now, but what does the future hold?

Patrick Lambert summarizes the latest action on the SOPA controversy, with lawmakers moving over the weekend to shelve it while "outstanding concerns" are being evaluated.

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act that has been going through the US House has been covered a lot in the past couple of months. All that attention came to a standstill before the holidays when the members of the committee held a hearing, and then the whole process was paused until later this month. And the latest action occurred just over the weekend, as the White House responded to SOPA and similar legislation under consideration:

While it was the first official acknowledgement of the bills, it was made clear that the President could veto any bill that does: "not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet".

This comes only days after a controversial DNS-blocking mechanism that ran at the heart of the SOPA bill would be scrapped until the U.S. House Judiciary can, "further examine the issues surrounding this provision". It was the kick in the teeth that the online community was hoping for.

But the White House's comments made it clear that while under this U.S. administration, SOPA, PROTECT-IP and the OPEN bills will not pass.

This is good news to many, and heads off the January 18 deadline, when a number of major websites had threatened to institute a blackout in protest of SOPA.

First, a bit of background, if you haven't followed the latest developments about the bill itself. SOPA is, as usual for these cases, a misnomer. It was drafted by Hollywood, and lobbied up into Congress to become the latest and most broadly reaching bill so far to allow companies to remove copyrighted material from the Internet. Right now, the US has laws at both the Federal level and State level covering copyright. It's illegal to take someone else's work and put it online, without their permission. Then, you have the DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which expedites the process of asking someone to pull content down. This system works pretty well, although it's prone for abuse. Basically, if a content creator finds his or her content hosted on another site, then all they have to do is file a DMCA notice, and by law the site has to pull that content down. Most large sites follow suit, and some, like YouTube, even have automated ways for big companies to pull down content in a very quick fashion.

However, not all sites comply, which is what brought ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch of Homeland Security, to take direct action, in what may be a very dubious way to interpret the law. Basically, ICE receives complaints from copyright holders, then goes to domain registries, and redirects domains to their own page, without ever advising the sites themselves. They've done it to hundreds of sites so far, and it has caused quite a few controversies. They seem to be going mostly after torrent sites that link to some pirated movies, and sites selling counterfeit clothing. The problem, of course, is that there is no due process, no notification to the owners of the sites, and everything is kept secret because of national security. On top of it all, ICE considers all "Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Error! Hyperlink reference not valid., Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. and Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.Error! Hyperlink reference not valid." domains to be US-based, regardless of where the site actually is, or where the domain name is registered, because the master registry for all these top level domains is VeriSign, a US company.

So right now, we have laws, we have the DMCA, and we have Homeland Security unilaterally going out and pulling domains when asked for, with a secret court order, and no apparent due process. But of course, SOPA would go even further. The problem, at least for Hollywood, is that foreign sites don't have to comply with the DMCA, since that's a US law, and ICE can't easily touch them either. So far, the industry has lobbied the US government to send diplomats and push countries to pass similar laws. But that doesn't always work, so SOPA was created. In simple terms, SOPA would change the way the Internet actually works, at least inside of the US. It would work at the DNS level, and would create a great American firewall, in a very similar way that China's currently operates.

Basically, the law would force ISPs and DNS providers to implement a way to block any request made for any foreign sites that is deemed to be "accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement". Also, it would force all payment providers such as PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, and more, to cut off any payment services to any individual involved in those sites. Finally, it would dramatically increase damages and add prison terms for copyright infringement, along with adding "streaming" to the list of offenses, instead of just hosting or linking to hosted content. It would basically create a great divide where the US Internet would work differently than the outside world, and that has a lot of companies and technology enthusiasts worried.

Whether or not it happens now, the January 18 blackout date included rumors that Google would do a full day where their services would be down, and instead they would show a SOPA-related notice to users with other sites like Wikipedia and Reddit following suit.

Now that a serious blow has been struck to the original SOPA by shelving it for the time-being, what "outstanding concerns" are likely to be addressed for it's rebirth? What would a workable anti-piracy act look like? Let us know what you think the future holds for backers of SOPA.

About

Patrick Lambert has been working in the tech industry for over 15 years, both as an online freelancer and in companies around Montreal, Canada. A fan of Star Wars, gaming, technology, and art, he writes for several sites including the art news commun...

58 comments
michael john2
michael john2

It's not easy to be optimistic about the future while trying to implore governments to do more about piracy.

divittorio
divittorio

Giving corporations or Hollywood or any group the right to censor and delete material from any web site on the internet closes the last opening for free speech. Think what percent of the media/communications/newspapers/news shows is currently controlled by a very small group of very rich people. SOPA would give them virtual control of all internet content as well.

rlsumrall
rlsumrall

when everything wasn't digital and you set your vcr to record your favorite shows via VCR+ there was no clamor from Hollywood about people making copies then. The real issue is that the new copies are nearly indistinguishable from the original. I am not for or against piracy. When a good movie comes out, we go and see it at the theater, if we liked then when it is released we will buy it. Maybe. With streaming services available its not really that big of a deal to a lot of people to own physical copies of media. The people that go to stores and buy physical media are not the same people that stream media. SOPA and PIPA will only slow down piracy not stop it. And for those that were doing it because it was convenient will no longer do it, but are still not likely to buy either.

Zolar
Zolar

Why not just revamp the copyright laws to expire 3 years after the creation of said material and use a different form of technology that prevents such material from being 'shared' at the copyright manufacturer level. It should take about 3 years to crack some form of encryption or whatever. Copyright holders are extremely GREEDY. Why should everyone keep paying through the nose for stuff that was made years ago? Those laws are archaic to say the least. The first one dates back as far as 1694! Stop 'protecting' the 1% and give the 99% a break.

zaq.hack
zaq.hack

I'm not anti-Wall Street. I'm not anti-Washington DC. But when the two get together on something like this, the results are always bad. Big Pharma + Government = Prescription Drug Bill (which, "shockingly," made every prescription drug more expensive) Big Oil + Government Regulation = $4/gallon gas And so on ...

mbrv4ever
mbrv4ever

i.m from the netherlands I think this SOPA is a danger to the economy foreign sites will then stop doing business with America and build a firewall around amirica So amirca makes its own trap *update* European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has negatively commented on the two U.S. bills against Internet piracy. Kroes puts the law as bad as the benefits of a free and open Internet should be protected properly.

ReadWryt (error)
ReadWryt (error)

...wouldn't it be grand to have Homeland Security knocking down the door of your church because you and your congregation were all watching the World Series on the projection screens, in violation of Copyright law?? Or is the Federal Government saying that Homeland Security can only enforce Copyright Law on the Internet...and does this make Content Pirates Terrorists, but Obama et al still refuse to call the "Pirates" hijacking ships off Africa Terrorists?... There is a slight eccentricity in the rotation of our planet being caused by the combined spinning of the nation's founders, Ayn Rand and George Orwell in their respective graves.

jeg
jeg

They didn't shelve it, they postponed it for a few weeks to let the heat die down.

mike_patburgess
mike_patburgess

Anyone remember when some of the countries in the middle east blocked the Internet and the good ol USA condemned this action? Anyone? Now under the auspice of SOPA and other nonsensical legislation, they are trying to do what amounts to the same thing blocking content from the Internet. When someone uses the "copyright" content and properly references that content only peaks my interest and others to read further by buying the material from the author. I would be honored if someone referenced my material in a medium that is spread over the globe. What you want to get paid for someone that references your material? This is what it is all about; greed. The author wants to get paid everytime someone references their material. Newsflash, you already got paid once for the material and if content is published with no changes to the content, and properly referenced in the medium, it becomes public knowledge; unless reader wants to buy the material. Doesn't the USA realize that with our global community that this type of legislation will only work if every country follows suite. NewsFlash again. The USA is rapidly becoming a lesser influence in the golbal community what with China owning their debt, and both China, India, and Russia becoming global powers in their own right. Move on from SOPA... You have other bigger issues that you need to take care of instead of appeasing some special interest groups.

sportbikehawk
sportbikehawk

Piracy is just a fad. The majority of people don't pirate and many of those that do still go to cinemas to watch movies, buy DVD's and buy music off iTunes. Once the internet and technology catches up and all movies and music are available for immediate high quality streaming for $1 a pop around the entire world them the problem goes away. A vast higher number of people around the world will be watching legite streams than the few left who still want to figure out way to pirate poor quality versions. Spend the money on developing new technology to make the internet faster instead of worrying about the short-term impact of piracy.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Perhaps we should all change our servers to block Americans.

cbruenell
cbruenell

So much money is being lost to illegal foreign web sites. This doesn't just affect the big wigs at the Hollywood studios. It actually affects the small independent guys more. They can't make a buck because some web sites will stream it or allow downloading, and the US can't touch them when they're offshore. SOPA will still require due process before blocking a web site. This copyright infringement affects the little guys who work behind the scenes on TV shows and movies as well. Less movies or lower budgeted movies means less work or lower pay for these guys -- all those jobs you never stay to read as they scroll along at the end of a movie. And most of those aren't high paying jobs to begin with.

winderama@gmail.com
winderama@gmail.com

Instead of the these lawmakers making new laws and telling us what we can and cannot do, they should first make and enforce laws to stop themselves from performing the special and elitist privileges they grant themselves such as getting inside information from special committees and then doing insider trading that is illegal and unfair for everyone else.

ScarF
ScarF

TechRepublic didn't join the rest of the websites going to Blackout today. It seems that, indeed, this website doesn't serve my interests anymore so I will quit using it starting now. Any comments to my comment will therefor remain unanswered. Adieu.

cybershooters
cybershooters

...unfortunately Hollywood and so on have been successful in getting similar legislation on the books in other countries. E.g. the Digital Ecomony Act in the UK, also Spanish legislation: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/05/us-pressured-spain-online-piracy. It was only a matter of time before governments finally started to catch up with technology. I remember back in 2006 talking to someone in the TV industry about Bittorrent, and they'd never heard of it, and my reply was: "Don't worry, you will." I have no problem with copyright enforcement, but governments have an inate fear of real freedom it seems to me, despite any claims to the contrary. The "national interest" always comes first. You will know that bureacracy has gone completely mad I think when ICE gets around to going after foreigners, "aliens" on aeroplanes over US airspace for working without authorization in the US, this will happen when internet connections become common on aircraft. At a bare minimum I guarantee you that there will be a block page that comes up when you log on with a rundown of US immigration and customs laws.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

They got a cut from every audio cassette or videotape ever sold in the United States.

mbrv4ever
mbrv4ever

I agree whit you. its a solid plan tumbs up!

JCitizen
JCitizen

political action groups who are not going to let this die. We were on congress from the start to stop SOPA. 'Save the Internet' is one of them, I think even Consumer's Union was advising law makers to at least modify the proposed legislation.

gerhon
gerhon

You are perfectly right...

sbbunkin
sbbunkin

Like the music industry, Hollywood is going to have to alter its business models to keep up with technology, or face the real prospect of rendering itself temporarily irrelevant once films have been distributed. The music industry gets it now, and with the apps that allow you to listen for free and then purchase with a click, they're going to be just fine. So will Hollywood, and so will broadcast content providers, once they shift the paradigm.

JCitizen
JCitizen

In my circle of acquaintances, the only reason they pirate movies/music is because it won't play on their devices! If STUPID Hollywood would make DRM that WORKED! Maybe my friends and acquaintances would stop pirating! I never pirate, but I tear my hair out constantly trying to get my protected content to work on my devices; if I weren't technically proficient, I would be forced to pirate like everyone else! WHEN IS HOLLYWOOD GOING TO GET IT!!! They need to go the iTunes route or better, and get OFF their butts, and quit using congress as an excuse for their [b]lazy shiftless inadequate marketing!!!![/b]

JCitizen
JCitizen

as you are with our congress! Now if we could just convert that to "throw the bums out!" We'd all be happy. If we don't get a house cleaning this election cycle, you might as well block the US, because the US voters will just be a bunch of block heads!! X-(

dennis.cb
dennis.cb

Yeah, since a small part of one industry is affected negatively we should give overwhelming power to the government to shutdown access to any site without due process? Because I'm sure Big Business and Government would never abuse this power, right? I'm sorry, I am against piracy, but you're a complete moron. Yeah, lets put the burden and liability on every/any blog site, forum, social site etc etc. that a user may have posted an inappropriate link, artwork, video etc., to police themselves or fear being shutdown on a whim, WITHOUT due process. This is how your rights are gradually stripped away until you have nothing left.

awarren2002
awarren2002

I just tried to give you a plus + vote and it remained on zero! Somebody blocking your comment? I wrote to both my Senators, but one of their websites was down. I think Homeland Security is a little harsh, they should be reined in when lives aren't at stake. Why shouldn't people pay for a copyrighted video or CD?

hansa
hansa

Do you really think that if a movie was not available for free, the pirate would go out and buy it? I think it is a fallacy to think that all pirating equates to lost revenue. The pirate had no intention of buying it anyway.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

I agree that there are jobs lost to piracy, but jobs can also be lost when governments over regulate an industry. I haven't read SOPA, but it does seem like a very large piece of legislation and the impact to smaller ISP's could be extensive. Bill

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Seriously, did you expect sites owned by entertainment corporations to participate?

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

The biggest threat that the US has is not an external threat, it's the companies inside the country (headquarters anyway) that buy politicians. When a politician is bought, he or she is no longer serving the people they were elected by, or the Constitution they swore to protect. Not sure about anyone else, but that seems like a traitorous act to me. And we're so mired in pointless fear-mongering and hate rhetoric thrown about by the right wing that no one can see the forest for the trees.

rlsumrall
rlsumrall

I speak of people that recorded shows off of tv to tape. the only people that got money there was the makers of the blank tapes. VCRplus was huge for years. You didn't have to program your vcr, just type in the VCRplus code and it did it all for you. VCRplus codes were in the tv guide.

cbruenell
cbruenell

People listen to music over and over, but only watch videos once or twice. Maybe more for kid videos.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

They don't want to get with the program, they want to keep milking the golden calf of unlimited intellectual property (for corporations who often had nothing to do with creating the work). It's like a mule cart cartel trying to blow up the railroad tracks because they like people paying extra for their obsolete services.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

and say "Dear Mrs. Clinton As a subject of US foreign policy, I protest the planned SOPA and PIPA legislations, both in present and future forms, as well as the content, letter and spirit of these bills, were they to be embedded in other legislation. Please acknowledge that I take this matter up with you directly, thereby engendering constructive dialogue, rather than become a part of a general international mood of resentment against the USA. Hoping to hear from you soon, sincerely yours Firstname Lastname." Let's get this thing on the road!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Repeal P.A.T.R.I.O.T... or they'll eat your souls yet.

nwallette
nwallette

There are a lot of individuals with the means, patience, and motive to distribute content that would otherwise have to be bought. They move a lot faster than legal action can curtail. If you take away all the places on the Internet that host or provide access to pirated content, there are many... many.. ways to get that content some other way. And they will. And that doesn't even begin to address the larger problem of mass duplicated DVDs in other countries -- a problem that no US-based legislation can fix. This is a losing battle. I understand not giving up in the face of adversity, but when a skirmish between technologically-challenged executives concerned with losing profits clashes with a culture of technically-savvy hackers and it takes out more bystanders than participants, I'm drawing the line right there. This bleeding-heart crap is the reason why I can't (legally) copy my paid-for movie and music collection to more convenient digital storage and watch it on the devices I want, when I want. They say it's because they're protecting the poor studios and employees and contractors of same, but that's BS and everyone knows it.

cbruenell
cbruenell

If there was something worth watching and no illegal way to watch it, one would have to either pay for it or watch it on an ad-supported web site.

JCitizen
JCitizen

is that the Chinese have also bought congress. We are closer to being like the Roman democracy of old, everyday. Corrupt from within, the enemy at the gate is let in by the populace.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

both parties are dirty on this one. My advice give your strong support to the politician closest to your views who stands against this travesty. As I recall (but it's been a while) a few politicians of both colors stood up to the PATRIOT baloney. Hopefully more are working against this one...

RRH37
RRH37

You're points are mostly spot on. Where you went wrong, is in thinking that the fear mongering and hate rhetoric only comes from the right. Both sides engage in it but they go about it differently. Meanwhile, back to SOPA. Anyone familiar with this garbage already knows that it was the MPAA, the RIAA & big media like Time Warner, that sent an army of lobbyists to washington to buy every vote they could. If you're telling me that people like Patrick Laehy (sp?), Lamar Smith and other supporters are tech saavy enough to understand what SOPA really is and STILL support it, then you'd be wrong. Politicians/Bureaucrats do indeed vote the way the highest bidder wants them to. Our government...bought and paid for by special interest/lobbyist scum. They have the best government money can buy, and there is not one politician alive that can't or hasn't been bought and sold already. Congress is starting to look a lot like the ancient Roman Senate in regards to how corrupt/crooked they've become.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Hollywood's problem is thinking they should get a cut for each person who watches any part of the movie each time the movie is shown, no matter how many times the same person watches it and no matter where or how the movie is displayed. How would you like to have to send a check to a studio every time you watched your favorite movie on DVD or Blu-Ray? I'm all in favor of the artist getting his or her due, if the artist is actually getting his due. But according to the studios, no movie—not even "Star Wars"—has ever made a profit, so they don't have to pay those who signed for a percentage of the profits. Yet the studios stay in business, get bigger, and keep making movies! Given that, cries of "foul" over people ripping off the studios are, at the least, disingenuous. I'll consider supporting some of the MPAA's more draconian anti-piracy ideas as soon as the studios open their books for public view.

JCitizen
JCitizen

O'Bama is more concerned about what foreigners think of him than voters anyway! HA! But, seriously, I would certainly think it would have an impact none-the-less!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Or... wait, no... I have a functional brain, so I just can't believe it, sorry.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

They saw themselves as tea partiers at the beginning, exactly because the movement didn't have the kind of stated agenda they had come to identify with "Promises Made To Be Broken". Now that the wingnuts and populists have set themselves up to speak on behalf of the movement, I think it's a question of time before the people you refer to simply stop thinking of themselves as part of it. And that's all it takes.

JCitizen
JCitizen

isn't that like trying to heard cats? The tea party is extremely disjointed. It is kind of like trying to categorize the 99%. Although that is probably a large group, I wouldn't be surprised if some tea partiers would also consider themselves part of that protest, and in fact show up regularly on Wall Street to do just that.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

A week? :p That's why it's now trash. It's an establishment-puppeteered "anti-establishment movement".

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

That was part of the original tea party agenda: get the money out! Then the money moved in...

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

that after the tea party and obama nonsense dies away, you folks will organize a nonpartisan grassroots drive to kick the merchants out of the temple... sorry, the lobbyists out of the various Houses...