Cory Doctorow Speaks Out About The Coming War On General Purpose Computation

Cory Doctorow, a Canadian blogger/author, at a...

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I don’t know by now if SOPA has already become a household word yet or not, but I think it should have been so.  Nonetheless, not everyone cares what is SOPA since the Internet has always been huge and the word SOPA has yet to deal real damages against their frequent Internet activities.  Of course, SOPA is subtle and so it’s obvious that not everyone would make a big deal out of stomping SOPA at its inception.  Nonetheless, SOPA is a word which ties to a bill which might be passed and affected the Internet as a whole on many levels when not enough bodies scrutinize what will go into the bill.  So, it’s for certain that SOPA is not a word to be jokingly threw around, but it will be threw around nonetheless for whatever purposes there will be.

With SOPA makes headlines as often as it has been, perhaps enough eyeballs and brains are coming to an understanding that it’s something important enough to be addressed and publicized.  Publicizing it enough so even people who have no idea how SOPA would affect them might come to a small degree of understanding that SOPA may create unintentional negative consequences for the general population who regularly visit the Internet for whatever purposes.  Furthermore, some people may come to understand once SOPA becomes law, SOPA will have a high potential in encouraging even more new rules and regulations that have nothing to do with common sense, relatively speaking in regarding to the Internet.  Instead, such rules and regulations might exist so someone would be able to quickly plug each loophole there is one at a time, in regarding to their specific bottom line.

I have an analogy to why SOPA can create a chain reaction of negative consequences, and eventually the chain reaction gets so bad that it might break the Internet altogether.  This analogy would be someone found a leak on a boat made out of wood, and this boat found itself in the middle of the vast ocean.  He or she thought it was a good idea just to have someone quickly stomped on the leaky hole for now.  Eventually, such a measure would not help and so more able bodies had to scoop the rising water out of the boat.  Finally, it was obvious to the captain of the boat that one action which supposed to solve the problem was not really the solution, but it had created a chain reaction of negative consequences which led to an eventual, unsolvable problem at the end.  The boat would sink to the bottom of the deep blue ocean.  The ocean was nice, but the passengers on a sinking boat had not such a notion since they were on the way down to their deaths.

Without enough voices that would speak out against something as SOPA, I think the Internet might not be able to thrive for the small people.  Remember this, the small people are the majority of the Internet users.  Understandably, no matter how noble the purposes that justify the naive existence of a thriving Internet, the Internet will always be a commodity.  Then again, who to say the Internet should only be a commodity but not some other meaningful means that could be really useful and convenient for the small people (i.e., the majority users of the Internet).  After all, without these small people who have been eagerly found themselves to be attracted to the Internet as bees to honey, there won’t be much of the Internet anyway.  Without the worker bees, there won’t be much of a beehive anyway, and the queen bee would not be able to matter much since the population of the bees is basically about to be wiped.  I think a smaller, less interesting, heavy regulated, and insensitive toward small people Internet might not be a hot commodity in the end.

Some people might argue that it’s fine to go back to the old ways of doing things. Unfortunately, once you let the genie out of the bottle, it would be almost impossible to have the genie back inside the bottle.  Majority of people might just go on creating their new little pockets of Internets and circumventing the heavy censored Internet anyway.  Little pockets of new Internets would spring into existences, but none would be better than the original Internet.  Perhaps, things would move forward, but things pertain to the Internets would go on to be scattered, and nothing good would come about to have many disconnected Internets.  Or I could be wrong and good things might come about to have many disconnected Internets for the small people, but the big people might have the worst time in trying to regulate many more disconnected Internets.  Things get expensive for the regulators, and nothing would have stopped the small people from enjoying getting together through the means of Internets.  I can be very wrong though, because such Internets have yet to exist, and I’m just speculating.

Cory Doctorow is one of those people who think SOPA and other insensitive DRMs might not address the problems but might bring about even bigger problems in the end.  It could be that I misunderstood him, but I thought he insinuated the idea of having DRMs for contents would have similar eventual consequence to how the authorities went about the war on drugs, it would go on unending.  Nonetheless, he also pointed out the future of general purpose computer and the free as now Internet might not be viewed in the same category as war on drugs, because these things we care about aren’t the fixes for getting the next bigger, better high; instead, these things are excellent at bringing people together for whatever purposes, and nothing which came before now was able to do the same.  Therefore, we might not want to view waging wars against insensitive Internet censorships that have had many gripes against small people (i.e., the majority users of the Internet) as to how we have viewed the war on drugs.  Check out Cory Doctorow’s speech right after the break.

Source:  http://boingboing.net/2011/12/27/the-coming-war-on-general-purp.html

I Might Be Completely Clueless On SOPA Or I Might Be Right That SOPA Can Curb Innovations!

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick.  Image from Wikipedia.

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick. Image from Wikipedia.

I’m a small shrimp in the ocean of sharks.  Yet, I still think SOPA isn’t the solution.  I fear SOPA might encourage witch-hunts.  What witch-hunts?  Don’t freak out, I’m not talking about burning real witches.  I’m talking about having SOPA witch-hunts.  Furthermore, SOPA might have the Internet Service Providers add more things onto their already super long todo lists, consequently making them unable to be productive and competitive.  What about the lawyers?  Lawyers might have a field day when SOPA is becoming law, because they might have less time to doodle but more time to make sure SOPA is SOPA or isn’t SOPA.  I can already hear a lawyer says, ” SOPA sounds like kaching (i.e., sound of a cash register) to me.”  What makes it more clear that SOPA isn’t a solution, because affected websites can just switch to DNS servers that are outside of the United States’ jurisdiction (i.e., as in oversea), avoiding the SOPA effect easily.  Then there is the feeling that DNS business might be outsourced to foreign countries, because DNS servers within United States suddenly feel like so SOPA.

I think SOPA might look good, but in reality it can be devastating and holding back innovations.  If not for big corporations holding back innovations through patents, we might already have our brave human fellows travel on USS Enterprise, exploring the galaxies.  Perhaps, we even have electric cars however many years early if corporations aren’t so fonded with oil and patents.  Yes, I know, the tiredness of the what if jokes!  But what if the what if jokes aren’t jokes?

SOPA does feel eerily to be similar to whatever rules and regulations that govern patents to me, because it might curb innovations.  I feel innovations should be encouraged fairly, and by this I mean big and small companies alike should have a shot at being innovative.  As we have seen where patents are heading, only big corporations would have billions of dollars to acquire patents and use these patents to sue everyone else that might not really infringe on such patents, but of course such patent cases have to be settled somehow, and usually the situations come down to settling out of courts for huge amount of money.  Only when things cannot be settled out of courts, then let the court battles begin.

I don’t think small businesses even have the money and time to worry about patents and SOPA, because they are trying to hire more people and expanding their businesses.  SOPA curbs innovations from small businesses, because big corporations might have more influences on how things should turn out.  With great money comes great responsibility!  No, let me rephrase this, with great money comes great power!  Oh boy, sorry for the inconvenience, let me rephrase this again, with great power comes great innovations.  Fine, let me backtrack a bit, with great money comes great power, therefore big corporations can use SOPA to favor their agenda, right?  I fear there will be little scrutiny of the SOPA violations but the alleged SOPA violators (i.e., relatively speaking of small businesses) might be out of business in a flash, as in websites are going to be shut down immediately at DNS level (i.e., revenue streams of such websites will be completely cutoff).

Ironically, even big corporations might feel SOPA is a pain if they are the ones who are being sued.  It turns out SOPA works both ways, like a knife with both edges being sharped.  Nonetheless, big corporations have the money and power to fight off SOPA easier than small businesses.  Plus, they don’t have to get into a panic mode and outright shut down their businesses for a SOPA case, because they are going to fight for their businesses with all their might, knowing they have a chance to make SOPA favors them even though SOPA is clearly at their throats.  When facing SOPA, I think small businesses might just as well close their doors and not doing business.  Why fight in courts when SOPA could or might make them even more broke, right?  So, once again, SOPA favors big businesses!  Is this fair?  I don’t think so.

Not only small businesses might face dire circumstances when facing SOPA, but customers and Internet users might face their own SOPA dire circumstances as well.  Customers most of the time are likely the Internet users themselves, and in this aspect we relatively combine customers and Internet users as one.  (Let not talk about customers as a business is a customer of another business, because it’s about something else entirely, and it’s not relating to the case I’m trying to make.)  When a customer comes to YouTube, he or she wants to see user generated contents and some professional contents, but more likely they will be bombarded with user generated contents; this is happening, because Internet is rather freer than not.  Now, imagine one weird user generated content gets call out, and SOPA might block the whole YouTube.

Of course, YouTube is belonging to a big corporation which is Google, and so Google will have the power, the means, and the money to argue against SOPA.  Nonetheless, even Google might not prevail and customers might no longer have something as useful as YouTube.  When SOPA claims victory, YouTube and other similar services might end up biting the dust.  Of course, this scenario might be too extreme, because when SOPA becomes law, YouTube might no longer be the same YouTube as Google has to make sure their original YouTube got to be sane with SOPA.  Shall we say user generated contents might be scrutinized evermore closely by Google?  Then again, it’s only the figment of my imagination, because SOPA isn’t law yet.  If SOPA isn’t law yet, then we cannot know how YouTube will behave unless you are the one who is directing Google’s YouTube.

Does this mean we just care not for SOPA, therefore piracy will forever rampage our Internet?  Yes, we should care not for SOPA, but we should care for stopping piracy at everywhere, whether that be on the Internet or off the Internet.  SOPA isn’t the solution since SOPA can be worked around easily by using DNS servers from oversea.  SOPA isn’t the solution since I hear that its language is too broad.  If SOPA’s language is too broad, it might dictate things that can affect not only the pirates but the innocents on the Internet as well.  I don’t think the majority is supporting piracy!  If SOPA’s language is too specific, it will not work, because it will not be able to justify when big corporations can just slowly comply to SOPA and stays in business while small businesses have to close doors immediately.  If small businesses can also slowly comply to SOPA, will big businesses favor SOPA still?

I know my understanding of SOPA is rather flaky, because my indirect knowledge of SOPA are from what I’d read online.  Nonetheless, if I’m wrong, then I have to admit I’m shortsighted.  Now, if I’m right, then SOPA might be very damaging to the whole old faithful structure of the Internet.  I believe the current Internet model isn’t bad.  In fact, I believe big corporations don’t need SOPA, but they need to only change their business ideas.  Steve Jobs knew this, because he had helped music labels stayed in business through iTunes store.  You can disagree with me, but you might change your mind if you read more on how Steve Jobs had convinced many players in the music industry to work with him to make iTunes store worked, and in return Steve Jobs had made some players in the music industry very happy in term of revenues.  If the music industry isn’t happy with iTunes store, how come they are so eager to sell their music on iTunes still?  It turns out that people might prefer buying music on iTunes store than pirating, because the quality for the music from iTunes store is simply better.  Let me put this in another way, an alcoholic cannot quit being an alcoholic unless he or she tells oneself to quit, but nobody else can!  SOPA cannot block a person from pirating or running a website with pirated contents, because he or she or an entity can simply use DNS servers from places that are outside of the United States’ jurisdiction.

You can argue that United States can make SOPA works by asking other countries to comply.  In my opinion, if United States asks nicely, only the countries that are aligning with United States’ agenda on SOPA will comply right away, but other countries will not.  Now, if United States forces other countries to comply on SOPA, the whole SOPA thing can only make the United States looks like an international bully.  For SOPA, is it worth it?

I fear SOPA might do its job too well that more people might find their computers infect by computer viruses!  How?  When web hosting companies and DNS service providers within the United States deny providing DNS service to some businesses to comply with SOPA, such businesses might use not so friendly DNS service from not so friendly DNS service providers, consequently helping the spread of the computer viruses, trojans, and malware.  It’s not like rouge DNS servers will spread computer viruses, but it’s more of rouge DNS servers might be hacked easier, consequently directing web traffics to dangerous web addresses.  Such dangerous web destinations might carry computer viruses, trojans, and malware.

You can argue that rouge DNS servers might have high security measures as how DNS servers that are being run within the United States, therefore we cannot assume rouge DNS servers might be easily hacked and redirected people to dangerous web addresses, consequently having people’s computers infected with computer viruses, trojans, and malware.  I don’t see anything wrong with such an argument.  In fact, I do think you are right on the money.  I do fear though when SOPA forces website owners to use rouge DNS servers, they might not have enough time to do a careful planning on picking the right DNS service providers oversea, and by rushing into picking DNS service providers oversea so their websites can get back online faster, website owners might sign up with bad DNS service providers, consequently allowing their websites to be subjected to DNS server hacks.  Evil doers might also take the chance of seeing some websites shut down by SOPA and reopen such websites with pirated contents but with different domain names, using DNS servers outside of the United States’ jurisdiction.  Customers (i.e., Internet users) might not know better and eager to download pirated contents without knowing what they download might infect their computers with computer viruses.

In summary, I think SOPA isn’t a right solution for stopping online piracy.  In fact, I think the right solution for businesses to stop online piracy is providing something which pirating cannot best.  For an example, by providing higher quality contents at affordable prices, this can effectively mitigate people from pirating since pirated contents tend to be poor in quality.  For whoever think SOPA is the solution to online piracy, don’t you fear the Internet, the engine which plays a big part in stimulating our current economy, might break down or become less attractive to innovations?  If you know something that I don’t on SOPA, please do tell.  If you’re supporting SOPA, let just hope you aren’t wrong by supporting SOPA so our Internet future will continue to shine for years to come.  Honestly, I just hope there are more people who want to have a more open and freer Internet so innovations can continue to spawn like crazy.