We’ve got no agenda beyond providing the best hardware news and reviews we can dig up. But here at Year’s end, there’s a subject we want to share with you that may come to affect how you experience us and the rest of the internet. It’s called SOPA, or the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, and it is headed through U.S. Congress with its sister bill PROTECT-IP in the Senate. SOPA threatens to fundamentally change the way information is presented online by placing massive restrictions on user-generated content like posts to forums, video uploads, podcasts or images. In a nutshell, here’s what the law would do:
- Assign liability to site owners for everything users post, without consideration for whether or not the user posted without permission. Site owners could face jail time or heavy fines, and DNS blacklisting.
- It would require web services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to monitor and aggressively filter everything all users upload.
- It would deny site owners due process of law, by initiating a DNS blacklisting based solely on a good faith assertion by an individual copyright or intellectual property owner.
- It would give the U.S. government the power to selectively censor the web using techniques similar to those used in China, Malaysia and Iran. The Great Firewall of China is an example of this type of embedded, infrastructural internet censorship.
As an example, imagine a user posts a video clip to the Tom’s Community of a step-by-step guide on how to set up water cooling on an overclocked i7 CPU. Playing in the background behind the voiceover is “Derezzed” by Daft Punk. The studio representing Daft Punk could issue a complaint, without being required to notify us or request a take-down. Tom’s Hardware would be liable and prosecuted solely on a good faith assertion of the copyright owner, without notification, with the site operators subject to possible jail time for not preventing the video from being posted. In short order, the http://www.tomshardware.com/ domain in the United States would no longer resolve to our servers and visitors attempting to come to Tom’s Hardware would be redirected to a “This site under review for piracy/copyright violations” page.
To conform to these new restrictions would mean that Tom’s Hardware would have to switch to a review/approval process for any and all new posts to our forums and articles. Our community team would have to approve every single news comment, every new thread, and every new response before it went live and filter them for potentially infringing material. Even so, we would still possibly be under threat from violations not caught – a user posting a paragraph from “Unix for Dummies” as an example or a snippet of software news from another website in excess of a certain summary threshold. That’s just here on Tom’s. The effect on sites like YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the rest of the internet would be devastating, and progress and innovation would grind to a halt under the cumbersome new restrictions.
The intent of the legislation is to stop piracy, which isn’t affected in the least by this approach. The DNS censoring method is circumvented by navigating to the IP directly, and many have already installed Anti-SOPA browser extensions that do this automatically. Unfortunately the legislation in the House and Senate has a wide margin of bi-partisan support and looks likely to pass after the holidays. We strongly oppose the censorship of the internet and strongly encourage you to contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators to voice your opposition. Believe it or not, your Congress-critters do count the number of calls and emails they get on a particular issue, and most of the time only the people in their jurisdiction (read- you) can sway their opinion on something – so your action on this is important.
Please take a moment to contact your representative and tell them you oppose the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Here’s a link that can give you more information and provide you with contact info for your elected official. Your action on this matters.
The Tom’s Hardware Team
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