Friday, January 20, 2012

Taking Over the Internet, Pt. 1: Megaupload and SOPA

This has the potential to be a rambling post or two, so please bear with me.

There is a lot of chatter these days concerning two proposed (but now shelved or delayed) Acts dealing with US copyright laws. They are SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act). On Wednesday, Wikipedia and Reddit protested the proposed Acts by having an information blackout for the day. On Thursday, the content-sharing site was shut down. It was a massive site, allegedly the 13th largest on the Internet at one point. Some people are wondering how the US government could wield such power, or if they are trying to take over the internet, or if this is the beginning of the war of the internet.

This is what I think.

The US government shut down Megaupload.
But SOPA was stopped.
So this means that they don't care or that they never needed SOPA in the first place.
Well, yes and no. The government needed warrants and approval from a grand jury. It's a lot of work. Mostly paperwork. What SOPA would have done was allow the government unprecedented and largely unstoppable power.
But they did it anyway.
Yes, but they could have been stopped. The warrants could have been denied and everything could have been called off if there wasn't a convincing argument. With SOPA that chance would disappear, leaving much more room for abuse of power.

For the record, I am anti-SOPA and PIPA. I think governments have enough power to deal with infringements, and eliminating due process lends an air of tyranny to what should be democratic measures.

One more thing. You can read the Megaupload indictment online. This paperwork has been going on for a long time. The feds do not indict anyone unless they're really sure they have an airtight case. It would be more than embarrassing to lose. Reputations are at stake. This tells me that Megaupload's lawyers have their work cut out for them.

There is a much larger post on this subject, but I had to stop writing and go to my day job. If I can finish the rest later on, I'll post Part 2 tonight or tomorrow.

1 comment:

bryesque said...

Totally agreed. I can't say I'm an expert, but everything I've read suggests the system at it stands now is fully capable of dealing with legitimate infringement - and the MegaUpload case seems to support that.

Governments and prosecutors *should* have to go through their paces and built an airtight case in order to take actions like these. It's pretty chilling how often our governments are attempting to duck around due process and civil rights, as if the principles of democracy have become inconvenient for those who are supposed to uphold them.

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