Picker Examines "SOPA and Censorship Spillovers"

SOPA and Censorship Spillovers
Randal C. Picker
The Media Institute
December 23, 2011

Possible copyright legislation has been in the news with the House Judiciary Committee’s on-again, off-again mark up of H.R. 3261, the “Stop Online Piracy Act.”  SOPA, and its Senate cousin, the PROTECT IP Act, are designed to limit intellectual property infringement at the price of, depending on whom you believe, the Internet’s very soul.

I should say up front that I don’t have a current position on the merits of SOPA and PROTECT IP.  I am not in a position, in Siskel-and-Ebert-like fashion, to offer a thumbs up or down on these bills.  There is a great deal going on here and I am sure that my understanding is only partial.  And the bills are a moving target, changing as more commentary comes in.  My job is to try to advance my understanding and sometimes to do that in public in an effort to push forward more general understanding.  Think of this as a progress report on those efforts.

I have been trying to understand the arguments through the eyes of the Internet engineers and have focused on two documents.  The most recent is a Dec. 15, 2011 letter signed by 83 Internet inventors and engineers and the second is a May 2011 white paper on “Security and Other Technical Concerns Raised by the DNS Filtering Requirements in the PROTECT IP Bill.”  And in looking at those documents, I have focused, at least for this post, on trying to separate technical claims from behavioral and political claims on just one issue, namely, how foreign governments that want to engage in censorship will respond to U.S. efforts to implement DNS filtering to prevent copyright infringement.

Randal C. Picker