Asian Scientist Magazine Supports Internet Freedom, SOPA/PIPA Doesn’t

Last week, online social media was abuzz with talk about two pieces of proposed U.S. legislation referred to as SOPA and PIPA, culminating in online protests against the proposed legislation.

AsianScientist (Jan. 25, 2012) – Last week, online social media was abuzz with talk about two pieces of proposed U.S. legislation referred to as SOPA and PIPA, culminating in online protests against the proposed legislation.

Wikipedia led the online protests with a 24 hour blackout of the content on its English language section on January 18, 2012. Other protests were milder, such as Google’s blacking out of its logo on its U.S. website.

After the protests, it was announced that consideration of the two pieces of proposed legislation has been postponed indefinitely.

A print screen of the English language Wikipedia page on January 18, 2012, illustrating its worldwide blackout in opposition to U.S. legislation such as SOPA and PIPA (Source: Wikipedia).

SOPA and PIPA: what are they?

Now, a bit of a refresher on these two bills. “SOPA” H.R.3261 was proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives, standing for “Stop Online Piracy Act,” with the stated aim “to promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property.”

PIPA S. 978, the “PROTECT IP Act of 2011,” was proposed in the U.S. Senate, aiming “to prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property.”

These proposed bills are designed to block access to offending websites by requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent users from accessing the websites through the domain name. In this way, foreign websites may be blocked despite the lack of jurisdiction over their service providers.

Additionally, payment network providers such as credit card companies and Internet advertising services (Google Adsense, for example) would be required to deny revenue to the offending websites. Internet search engines would also be required to stop listing the offending websites.

Content moderation = Internet censorship

Protests against the bills were carried out due to concerns that they create a framework for Internet censorship, discourage Internet based entrepreneurship, and retard progress towards a more secure Internet.

Under SOPA, a website that is found to “enable or facilitate” copyright infringement can be deemed to be an offending website. PIPA is less broad in that the website must be “dedicated to infringing activities.”

Consequently, had SOPA been passed, user submitted content would have to be checked for copyright infringement before publishing in order to avoid enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. This pre-moderation could be a slippery slope on the way to censorship, and would pose an untenable situation for online social networking websites, blog hosting websites, and others that publish an enormous amount of user submitted content.

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) noted that “the portions of the legislation dealing with Domain Name System (DNS) would undermine years of sound technical work by the international community.”

In particular, the legislation would negatively affect progress in security of DNS from the work on DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC). Yet, this may not stop copyright infringers at all, since their websites can continue to be directly available by their numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Therefore, Asian Scientist Magazine is against these two proposed bills, and will remain opposed towards any future proposed legislation that raises similar concerns.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Eugene graduated with a degree in computer science from the National University of Singapore. A tournament chess player in school, he remains interested in the game, but has added Starcraft 2, technology, computer programming, and Japan (especially the food!) to his list of interests.

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