We are putting up a black interstitial about SOPA/PIPA for the next 24hrs or so. If you click away from it, you'll get a cookie stored so you won't see it again in the same browser, but what follows is my reasons for doing it.
SOPA and PIPA are bad laws written with sites like The Pirate Bay in mind, but if enacted into law, would certainly go beyond the original intent to shut down foreign sources of piracy, much in the same way the DMCA is used as a blunt instrument for stifling tons of sites, videos, and documents in ways never intended. We decided to make a point of alerting the general public today about this pending legislation, to let everyone know the provisions to delist sites from search engines and hand over control of root DNS to judges making decisions on behalf of the US government is the kind of thing that could be abused and silence pretty much any blog, including MetaFilter. The SOPA/PIPA bills grant extraordinary powers to shut down sites, but it's a frightening step to take and I'd rather existing anti-piracy measures would be employed instead of sweeping new problematic lawmaking.
I've never written about my problems behind the scenes with the DMCA, a similar piece of law written to stamp out piracy but in the decade since it passed has morphed into a blunt instrument to silence websites for a variety of reasons. I was stuck in a Brazil
situation a little over a year ago due to a five year old song in MetaFilter Music
that shared a filename with a leaked (November 2010) unreleased Michael Jackson song
. Sony music group employed a dumb simple bot called "Web Sheriff
" that crawled the web looking for filename matches and when found, alerted IP range owners of infringing works being offered by their customers. I got slapped with a 30 day ultimatum to immediately take down the uploaded song on MeFi Music or find my hosting account closed and banned, and all of MetaFilter erased in the process. The claims were ludicrous and I informed my host of the impossible nature of the claim but was told per DMCA guidelines I had to either file a counterclaim notice with Sony/Web Sheriff or ask them to issue a formal retraction.
I didn't want to waste money on lawyer time by filing a counterclaim and prolonging the fight so instead I had to contact Web Sheriff directly to request a retraction. This took many back-and-forth emails, and thanks to Web Sheriff being in London, added days to the process of exchanging emails. Eventually I got a human at the company to look at the dates on my files and agree it was not a Michael Jackson song. The formal retraction took nearly two weeks to secure and convince lawyers for my host that it was adequate for removing the DMCA claim. That's two weeks into a 30 day window before I lost my rack of servers and hosting account completely. I'll never forget last year when I went through this because it was two of the stupidest weeks of my life, all because of some problematic laws granted new powers to copyright holders and I had to engage in a prolonged legal fight thanks to a mistake made by a bot.
I'm not the only one that got stuck in pointless DMCA battles, my friend Ben Brown stuck his iPhone out of a window, recorded a shot of a Transformers movie being filmed on the street below him and had his own video blocked from YouTube for a week because of a bogus DMCA claim by the movie studio
(how they could claim any copyright ownership on his own movie is beyond me).
SOPA/PIPA grant powers way
beyond the simple DMCA, and like the DMCA, if enacted, I see these laws mutating over the next few years and affecting all sorts of sites in ways never intended. Tim O'Reilly has a great piece on why SOPA/PIPA make for bad policy
, and if you're interested do check out if your senators and congressional representatives are supporting or opposing the bills
I felt this issue was important enough to warrant drawing as many eyeballs as possible to it, without negatively affecting the utility of what we have here, so today we're putting up the interstitial you might have seen calling attention to this bad law, this discussion, and things you can do to prevent it from happening. If you click away or the button, you will be cookied and you won't see it again in that browser. Thanks for everyone's help in our previous discussions