So after a brilliant Web Rally across the world, with multiple sites going dark for the day, (including Wikipedia, Wired, even Google had a black sash) the SOPA and PIPA bills have been shelved for a while at least. I am still proudly showing my stance on internet censorship by keeping the banner in the top right, for at least a while longer and that will stay there until Jan 24th.
Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr
But now people we need to consider what’s next. And what the viable solutions are.
This bill started out thanks to people blindly lashing out at the perceived threat of copy write theft and it was almost the biggest intellectual disaster that could’ve hit the world. Blacking out content on the net, would have killed the net. And sure it would’ve killed piracy online, but in reality, the piracy would continue.
And if the piracy would continue why censor our freedom of speech.
The biggest thing most of the politicians behind the draft of this bill don’t get is that pirates are clever. Really clever. Hence why so much stuff gets DRM stripped literally hours after initial launch. You can’t really stop them, all you do is cut off a distribution channel, but by the way Wikipedia went dark, I think it’s safe to say that cutting off the net does more harm to the common man than good.
There are multiple ways around restrictions and blocks like that, such as TOR and proxy connections to hide and mask IP’s and then you can look at things like VPN networks. Global VPN networks of people.
Try to shut down the net like that and I think it would simply evolve. For the day to day people you would have the Government Approved Internet and the Undernet. A collection of VPNs talking to one another, with free information and free speech. See Freenet for a great example.
There are a lot better solutions to the problems. But you will never get rid of the pirates.
However looking into the aftermath of SOPA, I have to flag up one huge point. Megaupload is dead. Once a file sharing website, to which anyone could upload files and pass the links on, a good way to get around the restrictions of email attachment size limitations has been Axed and the owners arrested for “Copy write Infringement” simply because of the content their users have put up online.
And as was noticed last night by the mighty TotalBiscuit, File Sonic also seems to have gone. No longer allowing uploads anyway. You can simply get in for retrieval of data that you have already put up there. And it looks like they have only done that in response to the Megaupload raid, fearing consequences for their own site. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more file sharing sites do exactly the same thing. And the users will start to be hurt.
You can’t expect website owners to be able to police every single bit of content that passes through them. There is simply too much information. Far too much information. All you can do is report when you think something is in violation of copy write and inform the owner for it to be flagged and removed.
And given the number of users Megaupload has, do you really think they are capable of policing every bit of data uploaded to their servers on a day to day basis. I certainly don’t.
I have a strong feeling though that this is only the beginning of a large number of high profile website hits that will shake the internet all over again. And I do not approve of this.
The people making these decisions need to be educated. We are a technical world now, and the internet should be a breeding ground of creativity, not a pit of censorship.
Make no mistake. SOPA and PIPA will be back and we will have to act again, and show the same solidarity we did on Jan 18th or else we will lose.
Dave, the master of VPN