Thursday, 19 January 2012

Getting SOPA with it

Summary: Legislation's what you need if you want to be a internet breaker

In the beginning, the web was the Wild Wild West. And in the end, the web will remain the Wild Wild West. 

We could stop there but it would perhaps be a little flippant, and easily dismissed and today I wish to write something which is neither. I will not be pitching on this subject to any Editor and if I did I would not expect to be sanctioned to go ahead, but the simple fact remains that this needs explaining and I've done it before and will continue to do so until I am blue fingered.

The Daily Mail contingent exist. Whether we like it or not they do. But is not just the Daily Mail contingent that requires consideration here as to the best of my knowledge the US does not have the Daily Mail. I am sure that instead, something Heralded or Timesed will step into the breach instead.

But the target audience are there and so they are citizens just like the rest of us and when a collection of people who feel generally the same about generally the same kind of issues there is weight there - political, economical and societal. To ignore this collective power is akin to sticking your fingers in your ears and singing 'la la la' if you are a politician or a Councillor and I believe that SOPA is an acknowledgement of this, albeit a US one. But lets make no bones about it, SOPA is the US equivalent of the Digital Economy Act 2011 and the same mistakes are being repeated across the pond (the only bit of this I must confess to finding unforgivable). 

For the rest is forgiveable but not for very much longer.  There is only so far accidental ignorance can take you as a plea before the Judge and Jury raise their eyebrows and tell you that the onus was on you to take responsibility for your actions and to find out whether they were encompassed by the law or no. And this is where we are at. I believe we are at the tipping point where a voting generation have arrived en masse who are intelligent enough (and judgemental enough) to base their future voting decisions at least in part on the actions of that particular party when it comes to digital.

Once you have reached that point, and we are not quite there yet, it can only go one of two ways.

We can either:
  • Continue to issue legislation which is not fit for purpose accidentally
  • Continue to issue legislation which is not fit for purpose on purpose
There is a subtle difference. I can forgive the former and the latter right now. But there is coming a time when I will not forgive the former and will positively encourage the latter because the latter, believe it or not is the only damn option we have and you had better get used to it.

You see, it is the Wild West out there. And there are people out there who are smarter than me or you and all of 'us' non criminally minded collected together. The best we can hope for, and I do mean the very best, is that groups like Lulzsec or whoever they are this week don't get annoyed at us. That they see us as unchallenging and unworthy of their collective wrath and intelligence. It is not them who are running under the radar on the web, it is us. Try being Sony for a day and find out how it feels. I should imagine not dissimilar to the bottom of your world dropping out and there being nothing you can do about it because you simply can't find anyone smart enough to help you with it that you didn't already nark completely with one of your comments challenging their intellect.

No. The way forward is the latter option and here is how it is going to go.

Someone either side of the Atlantic is going to have to balance keeping the Daily Mail lot (the majority whether you like it or not) happy. And keeping them happy equates to removing the evidence of any kind of wrong doing from their eye line. It means Google being the respectable face of the internet for your mother and your father. It means effort required to acquire anything illegal be that unpaid for music or guidelines on how to build a rocket with explosives. It means the Government visibly and forcefully clamping down on what it knows it can do something about and keeping those people happy who have a vested interest in this happening because this, this is the way the world works people.

But. And it's a but almost as big as mine. In doing this, there must be an acknowledgement that for some cracking things open is an addiction and a thrill. It's a 'cos it's there kind of thing', you know, the reason we're trying to go and land on the moon like it's nothing out of the ordinary at all. Those people are always going to exist and their not the majority and some of them might even come and work for you if you offer them enough caffeine and monitors/shiny gadgets but you can't win. I'm sorry to say this and I dislike saying it intensely because had we had this conversation 5 years ago the odds would have been different but the simple fact is:

You cannot win this battle.

So retreat. Use finesse. Consult the high level geeks on how to be seen to be locking down on piracy as much as is possible but for heavens sake don't break the internet doing it.

Thank you for reading.



2 comments:

  1. SOPA and PIPA are rather nasty. DNS was once a bit rubbish as far as security goes[1], but in 2010 switched to using DNSSEC[2]. Though this improved the security of DNS massively, it does mean that once the DNS records for a site under allegation with no evidence have been revoked centrally, only knowledge of the affected IP address will get around it. But then instructions to block specific IP addresses will be sent to all ISPs and the system will be utterly bust. Allowing legislation like this to pass without challenge would be the first slip-up on a very slippery slope imho.

    Also it's not quite the same in the USA as it is for us with the DEA. For one, Obama has signalled he'd kick this into the long grass[3]. Also Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law Professor[4] has written a legal opinion that SOPA would violate the USA's First Amendment[5]. Even if it's passed, it w/should ultimately fail in the US Supreme Court.

    Clay Shirky gave a TED talk[6] - also reported on Mashable[7]. At 11m 2s[8] he issues a call to arms - that SOPA/PIPA are the "next turn of this particular screw that's been going on for 20 years" - and notes previous skirmishes over COICA[9] 2010, the DMCA[10] 1998 and the Audio Home Recording Act[11] 1992.

    I agree and would advocate fight. And fight. And fight again.

    At the core of this is the UK and EU need a First Amendment of their own to combat/compete with the USA. Though I'm not holding much hope for that ever happening.

    [1] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/24/dns_exploit_goes_wild/
    [2] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/13/dnssec/
    [3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jan/16/sopa-shelved-obama-piracy-legislation
    [4] http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/index.html?id=74
    [5] http://www.scribd.com/doc/75153093/Tribe-Legis-Memo-on-SOPA-12-6-11-1
    [6] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2dF-IsH0I
    [7] http://mashable.com/2012/01/18/ted-takes-on-sopa-why-it-would-create-a-consumption-only-internet-video/
    [8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2dF-IsH0I&t=11m2s
    [9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combating_Online_Infringement_and_Counterfeits_Act
    [10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act
    [11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Home_Recording_Act

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  2. Hi Chris.
    I <3 your comment. You did what I sucked at cos I was so focused on the emotive. Thank you.
    Lou

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