I would lay odds that SOPA is going to pass, and pass by a majority in the house and senate; it is debatable if the president will sign it. If you have been involved in Bittorrent or P2P systems for a long time, you know that the minute something passes like a law against something, the community fragments. We have seen the fragmentation in P2P software since the shutdown of Grokster, Bearshare and Sharazza. We have seen a similar fragmentation in Bittorrent indexing sites since the shutdown of the Pirate Bay and others. We have seen the abject failure of personal lawsuits against downloader’s, while a couple of cases have been won; it is still not enough to stop downloading across the internet. The problem is not that laws don’t work, the problem is that the more the laws become draconian the more people work their way around it.
You can see this in classic corporate security, you tell your employees that they can’t do something, and they figure out some really clever ways of working around it. Classic information security can throw up road block after road block, but users still manage to get their computers infected, surf porn at work, use Instant Messaging, and other generally prohibited programs in many corporations. Companies can’t even block Facebook because people will just use a proxy system somewhere that is not in the web server filtering software.
SOPA presents the same opportunity for the c community to fragment along interest lines. It will most likely pass and be challenged in the Supreme Court if the president does not Veto it. There are some big corporate players that are against this bill along with the maddening hordes of casual users who are looking at being shut down because someone does not like what is being done on a web site. The brilliant part is that people route around damage, and SOPA is damage, like most networks there will routes around the damage imposed by SOPA and the industries that are supporting this bill will find themselves going after an increasingly fragmented audience that will be easier to hide, and easier to fly under the radar of the big mega corps. This will happen, it has happened with P2P, it has happened with Bittorrent, and it will happen to streaming video and other ways of downloading stuff. When two or three years from now the big content industries are still whining about losing money to pirates, remember this, people will find a way to do something, even if there is a law in the way.
Rather than go draconian, there are some very interesting surveys on what happens when a legitimate channel to download is opened. Honestly, take a look at what Techdirt posted today on their web site about the general mood around SOPA. Many people will default to legitimate pay for services if they carry what you are looking for. Netflix works for me because it has a pile of really bad B grade horror movies I can watch whenever. This is so much better than the spotty download speeds on Usenet, Bittorrent or P2P. Take a look at Hulu, if I want TV it’s worth paying for it, if I want movies, it is worth paying for it, look at ITunes. People will spend money.
Ah but then there is availability of content, there are some movies I really want to watch, but can’t get on DVD or in legal channels. I keep on looking for the legitimate copies, and would stream them in a heartbeat if I could get them. Oh and that stream would be a legitimate service, cause I love Netflix and Hulu. I pay for those services and enjoy them.
Rather than some draconian not going to work because people, ordinary people will find a way around restrictions, lets open up all the catalogs from all the music and movies. Let’s bring every movie ever made into legitimate channels, let’s do same day as release streams and downloads, let’s just open this puppy wide open so that people can make the decision to watch it in the comfort of their own home, or go to some nasty movie theater and pay 20 dollars for popcorn.
That would be a much better challenge than SOPA. Remember people route around damage, we will be here again in three to ten years with even more stiff laws and regulations, because SOPA isn’t going to work quite the way the supporters are thinking it will.
- SOPA Hearings Stacked In Favor of Pro-SOPA Lobby (yro.slashdot.org)
- The Important Reason to Block Sopa From Becoming Law (socyberty.com)
- What’s On the Blacklist? Three Sites That SOPA Could Put at Risk (eff.org)
- Speak Out Against SOPA: Send Congress A Physical Letter In Just A Few Clicks (techcrunch.com)