The Kernel believes that the Stop Online Piracy Act currently before the House Judiciary Committee in the United States is an idiotic and unworkable piece of legislation worthy of our own European Union.
In December, The Kernel published a column sympathetic to GoDaddy, the US domain registrar forced to reverse its support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), after massive numbers of its customers defected to rival registrars in disagreement with GoDaddy’s policies.
The column also gently derided the indignant behaviour of the Twittersphere, noting that Twitter protests appear to be becoming less effective as large companies tire of obeying the mob’s every whim. Several readers mistook this for an endorsement of SOPA. The Kernel would therefore like to make its position on the SOPA legislation clear.
This magazine believes that the Stop Online Piracy Act currently before the House Judiciary Committee in the United States is an idiotic and unworkable piece of legislation worthy of our own brainless bureaucracy, the European Union.
In Europe, we are accustomed to our politicians, particularly those in Brussels, acting like halfwits when it comes to the internet. The European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, has a chequered legislative history that suggests only the most fleeting of acquaintances with the subtleties of technology law and practice. (Indeed, we once rather unkindly suggested that Ms Kroes likely has trouble doing up her own shoelaces.)
In particular, her bonkers cookies directive, about which The Kernel’s Editor-in-Chief has written, somewhat furiously, elsewhere, is an unforgivable sin: one that wipes out any prior achievements the Dutch Bilderberger may claim for herself even after her protracted period of anti-trust campaigning.
But even we poor denizens of the corrupt and technologically illiterate superstate of Europe are shocked to see the Stop Online Piracy Act progressing through the various stages of ratification in America. SOPA is a horribly stupid piece of legislation, one that could only have been concocted by powerful but dopey interest groups who do not realise the damage that will be done even to their own organisations by its enactment.
In principle, the law is concerned only with sites which “engage in, enable or facilitate” copyright infringement. In practice, it is worded so poorly as to materially endanger almost every website we and our readers use every day. Practically every site on the internet that allows users to interact or to post content of any kind risks being shut down entirely by this law.
Perhaps most shamefully of all for the United States, even the European Parliament has seen critical flaws in the clumsy drafting of this proposal. It is not too much of an exaggeration to call the present situation an international scandal.
Facebook, Google, eBay/PayPal, Foursquare, Kaspersky, Reddit, Mozilla, Tumblr, Twitter, Yahoo, Scribd, Quora, Github, Square and AOL all oppose this legislation. We humbly submit our own name to that list today, and we encourage our American readers to familiarise themselves with the facts about SOPA and to write to their elected representatives to express their views.
It is always amusing to tease the west coast Twitterati and Silicon Valley bigwigs when, as is so often the case, their myopic screeching hyperbole loses touch with reality. After all, the content industries are frequently right to feel frustrated and helpless. Often, in debates about digital piracy, hysteria about the actions of movie studios and governments masks the reasonableness of their responses to rampant online piracy.
But this is not one of those occasions. There are valid and grave concerns about copyright infringement online that remain to be addressed in legislation, but SOPA is not the way to protect rights holders’ interests.
For the sake of users and sites alike, of ideas as yet unimagined and businesses as yet unborn – and for the sake, above all, of the wondrously diverse and extraordinarily precious and beautiful culture that proliferates in all corners of the web thanks to the extraordinary developments of the last decade – it must be stopped.