Although lots of technology-related sites are correctly up in arms about the Stop Online Piracy Act, the MSM has given it short shrift, and the financial blogosphere has not paid much attention (cross posts of some of George Washington articles being a welcome exception).
SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) use nuclear-weapon-to-kill-a-mouse scale solutions to Internet piracy. David Carr in the New York Times, in an rather anodyne article given what is at stake, gave an overview of what is wrong with the bills, namely, a lot. Even if you accept the proponents’ dubious claims about the losses from “rouge” foreign websites ($58 billion!), the bills probably won’t fix that problem and will create a host of new ones. Despite assertions that it would create jobs, it would actually deter technology startups, undermine scientific journals, and could fragment the Internet domain name system. It’s tantamount to making the public wear ankle bracelets to combat shoplifting.
So why is the American Bankers Association one of the sponsors of a bill that seems awfully remote from its terrain? The bill allows anyone to send a complain about a purported SOPA violation and get the site disappeared. This faster and more brutal than the execution of Wikileaks via cutting off its access to payment networks. From TechDirt in December (emphasis theirs):
I wanted to call out one key point that was really made clear by an amendment offered by Rep. Jared Polis late in the day yesterday, which hasn’t received nearly enough attention. As you may recall, with the “manager’s amendment” version of SOPA (i.e., SOPA 2.0), the “notice-and-shut off funding” section of the private right of action in Section 103 was removed. This was good, because we’ve seen how the notice-and-takedown provision of the DMCA has been widely abused.
However, what most people missed was that the bill effectively sneaks this back into the bill in a much worse form in Section 105, which supposedly grants “immunity” to service providers for taking voluntary action to stop infringement. The true impact of this section was only made clear by Rep. Polis’ attempt to limit it, as he highlighted how this broad immunity would likely lead to abuse. That’s because this section says that anyone who takes voluntary action “based on credible evidence”: basically gets full immunity. Think about what that means in practice. If someone sends a service provider a notice claiming infringement on the site under this bill, the first thing every lawyer will tell them is “quick, take voluntary action to cut them off, so you get immunity.” Even worse, since this is just about immunity, there are no counternotice rules or anything requiring any process for those cut off to be able to have any redress whatsoever…
End result: SOPA 2.0 contains a crazy scary clause that’s going to make it crazy easy to cut off websites with no recourse whatsoever. And this part isn’t just limited to payment providers/ad networks — but to service providers, search engines and domain registrars/registries as well. Yes. Search engines. So you can send a notice to a search engine, and if they want to keep their immunity, they have to take the actions in either Section 102(c)(2) or 103(c)(2), which are basically all of the “cut ’em off, block ’em” remedies. That’s crazy. This basically encourages search engines to disappear sites upon a single notice. It encourages domain registries to kill domains based on notices. With no recourse at all, because the providers have broad immunity.
Oh no, this isn’t crazy at all, it’s authoritarian. Imagine how long Goldman666 or Matt Taibbi or Karl Denninger or yours truly would be around with this rule. Wikileaks demonstrates that even Swedish domiciled sites are not safe.
And it isn’t just the banks that favor SOPA. So too does the AFL-CIO.
The Internet lets people talk to each other. What this bill does is go after that feature in the name of attacking crime. Does crime require that people talk to each other? Yeah. So does everything else. Legacy organizations, be they banks or music companies or Big Pharma or the AFL, are willing to sabotage open communications if they think it will help assure their survival. And given how banks’ ability to loot depends on ignorance of how extensive and nefarious their abuses are, their motivation to shut off information is high indeed.