Thursday, January 05, 2012

US Congress Still Doesn’t Understand the Internet, Reddit Responds to Lamar Smith Over SOPA

Recently, US Representative Lamar Smith (accidentally?) issued a challenge to the social-media news aggregator site Reddit by calling them a vocal minority who didn’t understand the law as written and therefore their fears were unfounded. Smith then challenged the community to point out the areas they felt SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) threatened the integrity of the Internet.
"It’s a vocal minority,” he said. "Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded."
To put this in Internet meme terms, Reddit took this to heart: Challenge Accepted.

Anyone ready to dismiss the power behind Reddit and its role as an organ of mainstream Internet reaction might want to look at how GoDaddy did when Reddit became a leverage-point for pressure against the domain-name registrar to drop their support for SOPA.
It is broadly argued by opponents of bills such as SOPA and PROTECT-IP that while they’re philosophically designed to counteract copyright infringement and piracy but pragmatically they burn down the forest to kill the wolf. Under these bills set before Congress corporations who hold copyrights will be given unprecedented powers that would allow them to censor any target without due process (as cited my many opponents of the bills) already this is a problem for the DMCA in its “automatic takedown” provisions but will only be expanded to ridiculous extremes by SOPA and remove what works out of the DMCA (although it should be pointed out that the DMCA is still demonstrably broken in a way SOPA breaks worse.)
Needless to say, the deck has been stacked against opponents of this bill and even Google has found themselves at the table speaking out against it. While one might think it would be hard to marginalize a corporation like Google, the US Congress managed to do just that with ridicule and dismissal.
It seems unlikely the Lamar Smith will look at the artifacts of Reddit’s reaction to his challenge, but the research and replies developed from within their ranks will further fan the flames and better educate people as to what portions are in fact poorly designed.
On another note, language from corporations who do not support “the current version” of SOPA should really just drop it. The public at large understands that there’s a strong reason for copyright holders to desire powers that enable them to protect their copyrights; but when they ignore the unequal treatment of different holders and providers in these contexts (to their own obvious detriment) and are unable to explain away the philosophical bankruptcy of bills like SOPA it damages their credibility.
The politics of this bill are ever shifting, and everyone should be aware of who supports it in the gaming industry—for example here’s some MMO publishers who belong to the Entertainment Software Association (SOPA supporter) but who have been looked through recently to see who supports the party line of the association.

Way to go TRION Worlds who was recently discovered to not support SOPA (so spake they in a forum post) and said they’d take it up with the ESA. Hopefully more will follow suit.

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