SOPA : Java Glossary
©1996-2017 2012-01-18 Roedy Green of Canadian Mind Products
On 2012-01-18 you probably noticed blacked out Wikipedia, the
Free Software Foundation, Firefox, Razer, Reddit and thousands of other websites sites protesting
SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act)
and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act). SOPA
are bills, not yet passed into law, that intend to stop piracy, but which have a
number of highly undesirable side effects. I have been distressed to discover amid
all the shouting, some obvious points are not being made:
- The Americans are proposing a SOPA
that will shut down any website that displays so much as one copyrighted image or
copyrighted paragraph text without permission. Given that there is no way to tell
if an item is copyrighted, this law makes no sense. If the government wants such a
law it must provide a way for people to electronically register their copyrighted
images, documents and sound files. Then all a webmaster has to do is submit each
piece for a check. If the government says it is not copyrighted, he should me off
the hook even if the government is wrong because someone managed to foil the
- There also needs to be a way for an author to electronically register his
permission for someone to use material so that there is no
confusion, both for individuals and for blanket permission.
- The whole law is insane. It punishes the innocent and lets off the wrong doers.
For example, if an online magazine, bought a cartoon, then discovered the person
they bought it from pirated it, the magazine did nothing wrong. It should not be
- If there in no way to quickly determine if something is copyrighted, then it
should up to the copyright holder to complain to the copyright violator. Only if
the violator refuses to bring it down within a week after having received a
registered letter, should the violator be liable.
- The new SOPA law will affect every newspaper, radio station and
TV station that solicits user comments to its stories. Such comments might
surreptitiously or inadvertently contain copyrighted material which would shut down
the station. To protect themselves they would have to research every post or, more
likely, stop accepting comments altogether.
- The proposed SOPA
legislation will directly affect the mindprod.com
website. When I decide whether to include an icon or photo on my site, I can
sometimes tell if it is copyrighted by the watermark, or the source, e.g.
AP (Associated Press). But most of the time I cannot. I have many
enemies. All it will take for them to shut me down is to find so much as one
copyrighted image on my site. If I remove all images, they can still nail me by
sending me an email to post containing, unbeknownst to me, copyrighted material
that they later discover. It makes absolutely no
sense to punish websites for posting copyrighted material when there is no way to
tell if that material is copyrighted.
- A website is not only responsible for its own content, it is can get in trouble
if any website it links to contains copyrighted material. There are more than
1500 links on my tiny website. Monitoring the content of
every document and image on all those sites would be impossible. Consider doing
that for a giant site like Wikipedia. There is absolutely no way, especially when
there is no way to tell if a given document or image is copyrighted. This law is
trying to conscript ordinary citizens to do the work of law enforcement.
- There are two main reasons corporations support SOPA,
one legitimate, to collect royalties for use of their documents, images and
musical recordings and one illegitimate, to silence whistle-blowers and critics,
by denying them access to documents even website text.
- Corporations have found yet another way to abuse copyright law. When somebody
criticises them and in the process quotes corporate documents or manuals, even
ones freely available, the corporation can censor the critic by charging him with
- The appropriate punishment for posting copyrighted material is optionally being
forced to remove it and paying a royalty for the time it was posted, not shutting
down the entire website, especially since there is usually no way to tell if any
given image or document is copyrighted.
- The goal should be to spread copyrighted material widely, with an automated
small royalty to the author, not shutting down websites and restricting
- The drafters of SOPA and PIPA
admitted they had no knowledge of computers or the Internet. They were
single-mindedly focusing on putting an end to piracy of music. They inadvertently
drafted laws that were impossible to comply with and that have consequences
hundreds of times worse than the problem they were intended to solve. The problem
is incompetence and arrogance of the law makers. They should have consulted
Internet experts to devise a workable law. Nobody is arguing for the pirates, just
for laws that do not harm innocent people and that are possible to comply