Policing Internet Piracy: The Economist

Nov 25th, 2011 Legislation

On Nov. 25th, 2011, the Economist put out two articles on the controversy surrounding SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the Protect IP Act.  The first article, titled Accessories after the fact, weighed the pros and cons of the legislation.  To begin, the article argued that online piracy deprives artists and businesses of revenue, previous attempts to stop online piracy have largely failed, and entertainment firms could change their business model to reduce piracy's effects.  The article also explained that SOPA differs from past attempts to shut down individual pirate sites in that SOPA allows content companies to target search engines and ISPs, thereby depriving pirate sites of revenue and traffic.

The author believes that for all the bad press, SOPA has a few good points.  Specifically, SOPA gives content companies a legal remedy against piracy, puts the burden of enforcement on those content companies (rather than the government), and encourages search engines to promote legitimate online music services.

On the other hand, SOPA has its cons: content companies could target innocent sites that "unwittingly carry comments linking to pirated material", SOPA might deter small tech startups, and the legislation loosely defines what is an "infringement."  Most importantly, SOPA could damage the internet's internal addressing system and mess with DNSSEC, ultimately raising cybersecurity concerns.

In conclusion, the author argues that SOPA could be improved by narrowly defining the type of websites that ISPs/search engines can block and "removing the requirement that ISPs put filters in place . . ."

The Economist source article can be found here.

***

The second article, titled Rights and wronged, elaborates on some of the points made in Accessories after the fact.  Here, the author notes that the open nature of the internet (a pirate in one country downloads content from another country, which he found on a server that is hosted in a third country) has brought us to SOPA; essentially, squeezing intermediaries (ISPs/search engines) to stop traffic is a lot easier than playing whack-a-mole with pirate sites.  This approach may be more effective, but the article notes that SOPA "smacks of censorship" and "determined downloaders will anyway find the block easy to bypass." 

The article went on to compare SOPA to other international anti-piracy laws in South Korea and Spain, and in so doing, highlighted the unreliability of such laws.  Anti-piracy laws were quite effective in South Korea, where most people stopped illegally downloading after their first warning.  However, after Spain passed an anti-piracy law, music sales dropped while Spanish internet users visited pirate sites more often than other European internet users.  Indeed, even in the US, the Recording Industry Association of America's anti-piracy lawsuit binge brought only a temporary decline in piracy.  The big point?  The deterrent effect of anti-piracy laws fade over time, and as the Social Science Research Council noted, there is  “little evidence—and indeed few claims—that enforcement efforts to date have had any impact whatsoever on the overall supply [of pirated media].”

According to the article, the real issue with SOPA comes down to "how content should be distributed and paid for."  On one side of the debate, you have the film studios, music labels, and drug firms that support SOPA and want to slow the development of new content distribution systems.  On the other side, you have "internet companies, technology investors and digital activists" who oppose SOPA and want to see new content distriubtion systems like "cheaper pricing in poor countries, more use of on-demand digital services, less exclusivity in distribution, and ultimately, less reliance on selling albums and DVDs."

The Economist source article can be found here.

***

Well, while we're on the subject, Forbes reported on how users of the social news and community site Reddit are attempting to resist SOPA by "building a mesh-based version of the Internet that wouldn’t be subject to the control of any corporation or government, with a focus on anonymity, peer-to-peer architecture and strong resistance to censorship."  They probably won't be successful, but just goes to show how unhappy people are. 

I KNEW that browsing Reddit would one day be constructive.

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Authors

Untitled Document
Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography

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