<< Good passwords and bad passwords | Home | Google's data centers >>

SOPA - PIPA - DRM - ACTA, why it is all futile

I'm going to rephrase a post I made on Slashdot in Jan 2012. It is about the digital medium in the internet era and how the information economy (books, movies, music) will be affected by it. Make no mistake here, I'm not taking sides, I am just trying to predict what is in my opinion inevitable. Another thing to clarify: Do not mistake information and entertainment. I went to see Coldplay a few weeks ago, along with 80000 other people. No amount of digital information will ever amount to that. But the latest CD they produced? Almost 100% information.

Let's dive in. We'll start by establishing a few facts that are - in my view - indisputable.

  1. Information flows freely between people. There is no way around that. It's been like that since humans were first able to communicate. It is the basis of the human evolution, education, entertainment and inherent to humanity.
  2. This didn't mean much back in the days since large amounts of information were tied to physical media (books, tapes...), so it was essentially not free except what you could say/listen to, which was naturally limited by our brains. You had to get a tape / LP / book to transfer information.
  3. Information is now infinite, instantaneous and without borders (for all intents and purposes pertaining to copyrights)
  4. You can encrypt and obfuscate communications with the help of computers very simply, beyond the reach of anyone, including the law enforcement. Hence, with little overhead, nobody can tell what you transmit over the internet, except the guy at the other end with the key/password.
Now that we've established the facts, let's see what these assertions mean in the real world. To sum it up, it means that anyone on the internet can communicate freely with everyone else. And that means:
  1. Copyrights on information transferable by the internet are not enforceable anymore. Period. Unless you disconnect everyone from the internet.
  2. Any law trying to prevent this will just harm lawful activities on the web by making it more and more cumbersome and risky to operate a legitimate website. They will have no effect on piracy. At all.
  3. Piracy will not be reduced or stopped by anything else that global extinction of the internet. It is detectable for some part right now because people don't bother hiding themselves. This could change quickly and without pain from the pirates.
Ah... One last thing: It doesn't mean the end of music/films/books artists, but it surely means a very deep transformation of the movie/films/books distribution business.

Now, why the fuss over PIPA and SOPA (as well as the rest of the attempts by copyright holders to prevent copyright) ? Well, it's very simple, really. Here is what SOPA and PIPA would have achieved:

  1. Their attempt was to control the flow of information over the internet. That's basically called censorship and I think under that name nobody would have been able to support it. Sot they called it PIPA and SOPA.
  2. It would have succeeded in this regard only when it comes to lawful activities on the internet. When I send an email to my girlfriend with a file attached, I can encrypt everything. When I'm called Amazon and have a legitimate website to run, I can't really hide it from the authorities. It would defy the very purpose of a public website. Hence, only the "law abiding" people on the internet would be affected. Quite the opposite of the original purpose.
  3. Piracy would have just morphed a bit to be out of reach of this new law.
Net worth: Huge pain for legitimate businesses, no effect on piracy.

Now I hope the stand up of Google and Wikipedia is more clear and makes more sense. Because, contrary to whatever those people want you to believe, being against SOPA or PIPA is not being pro-piracy. It's just understanding the issues at hand the the probable outcome of the law.

Categories : General rambling, News