SOPA explained: What it is and why it matters
What’s the controversial site Megaupload.com all about?
There was an ongoing massive debate between Hollywood and Silicon Valley about the proposed bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA), to combat piracy. However, more than a week ago these bills were shelved because of recent events which consisted of online and offline protests and the shutdown of a large file-sharing website, Megaupload.com. These events have brought a few concerns regarding cybersecurity and privacy.
SOPA and PIPA wanted to cut off “rogue” websites from search engines and other services in order to prevent the public from accessing any pirated content hosted on those sites. Tech companies such as Google and Facebook, were against these bills because the bills would have introduced undefined liabilities and would require for these sites to continuously inspect websites. As a response Wikipedia and Google, along with several other websites, initiated a “black-out” of their services on January 18 to inform the public of how the bills would affect their digital lives. Back in the real-world, people went to the streets of major cities such as Washington D.C., NYC, San Fransisco, and Seattle to verbally express their concerns.
One day later, the U.S. government succeeded in shutting down one of the most well-known sites for hosting pirated content, Megaupload.com. With the help from international governments, they were able to charge seven people with copyright infringement and acquire about $50 million in assets. The next day, January 20, SOPA and PIPA were officially “postponed” indefinitely. There is a slight chance that they could come back but only if the bills are drastically revised with a better strategy to combat piracy.
Why does the government or Hollywood need additional laws to fight websites hosting pirated content if they can do so without them? SOPA and PIPA seemed like they wanted to implement a “legal” denial-of-service attack where rather than making the intended target malfunction or offline, they would just remove the target from search engines. How would that have succeeded? The public could have easily bookmarked or remembered the site’s address and return to it even after it has been removed from the search engines.
How does this relate to cybersecurity? If these laws were passed, then sites like Google would have been forced to monitor our content in order to make sure that they would not be liable if we uploaded copyrighted material. That would be an intrusion on our privacy because then there would be a huge database of collected data from users who wanted to share with the public. Even though most of everything that we do gets recorded digitally in today’s society, does that mean that we want the government to know what we are sharing with our family, friends, or anyone else for that matter? I believe not.
Therefore, the concern still remains: What is a good balance between keeping our privacy and having security? How much is the public willing to give up from their lives to the government for enforcing laws?