Late last week saw the domain registrar Go Daddy lose over 21,000 domains. Why did this happen to a service which was doing pretty well for itself for so long? In an acronym, SOPA.
Go Daddy along with several other organizations, most notably the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, was in support of the controversial “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. But due to the growing community of opposition to the bill, coupled with a boycott of Go Daddy, forced the web hosting company’s CEO Warren Adelman to make a public announcement stating that it would end its support of the bill until the time “when and if the Internet community supports it.”
All this was thanks to an anti-Go Daddy thread on Reddit and Godaddyboycott.org. The latter was set up specifically to let people point out their disapproval of the company’s stance on the bill.
But what is all the fuss about? Well, SOPA, along with PIPA (Protect IP Act) are bills that were introduced to congress this fall and would make it easier for the Justice Department, and copyright holders, to shut down websites allegedly dedicated to piracy. This bill would make unauthorized streaming of copyrighted material a crime, punishable with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. And while you might agree that there needs to be some policy in place to protect copyrighted material online (as I do), this is not the bill to do it.
First, its main goal, to stop piracy, would not even be achieved as Edward Black (president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association) noted in the Huffington Post that “it would do little to stop actual pirate websites, which could simply reappear hours later under a different name, if their numeric web addresses aren’t public even sooner. Anyone who knows or has that web address would still be able to reach the offending website.” But more importantly, it is a slippery slope to begin censoring the internet, a terrible thing to happen to a country which prides itself on its right to freedom of speech. And I’d like to note how strange it is that congress is even considering this bill after criticizing China for having a censored internet.
Other problems that would stem from the bill if it should pass would include a degradation of cyber security due to the harmful process of enforcing the law, hurting the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), and the negative impact it would have on the only part of the US economy giving it an edge; the tech industry and web-related startups.
But perhaps the greatest threat is to websites that rely on user generated content. Sites like YouTube and Facebook would be put in the awkward position of having to police their sites or be branded a pirating websites and thus be shut down. And if they are moderated and policed, they are effectively no longer the YouTube and Facebook we’ve grown to know and love.
Both these bills, although delayed are very much still alive in congress and will be discussed and put up to a vote once congress returns from its winter recess. To find out more information on the bills that Google, Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, eBay, Mozilla Corporation, Wikimedia Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, ACLU and Human Rights Watch are all opposing and the issues at stake, please take a few minutes to watch the video below and go to FightForTheFuture.org to sign a petition opposing the bills that will be sent to your representative.