Copyrights vs Human Rights: big publishing and SOPA

My latest Publishers Weekly column is "Copyrights vs. Human Rights." In honor of Human Rights Day on Dec 10, I've written a piece on publishing's shameful support of SOPA, a law that will punish the online services that are so key to coordinating and publicizing human rights struggles around the world.

The U.N. characterizes access to the Internet as a human right, and government research in the U.K. and in the U.S. shows the enormous humanitarian benefits of network access for poor and vulnerable families: better nutrition, education, and jobs; more social mobility and opportunity; and civic and political engagement. Yet the services that provide the bulk of these benefits—search engines, Web hosts, and online service providers like Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter, Wikipedia, and YouTube—could never satisfy the requirements set out in SOPA. The only way for these platforms to satisfy SOPA would be to all but shut off the public’s ability to contribute and to throttle free expression for all but those entities that can afford to pay a lawyer to certify that their uploaded material will not attract a copyright complaint.

Another group of important entities that could never satisfy SOPA are the civic-minded hackers and security researchers scrambling to improve the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). In 2011, the DNS was attacked several times, including a breach attributed to the Iranian secret police, which used forged certificates to allow them to impersonate governments, banks, and online e-mail providers like Gmail and Hotmail. If passed, SOPA would ban the production or dissemination of tools that could subvert its blocks, and that would include tools the world’s technologists are creating specifically to help defeat government censorship and surveillance. Many of these efforts and tools are actually funded by the U.S. government, and some, like the Onion Router (TOR), are used by U.S. armed forces intelligence services as well as struggling Arab Spring revolutionaries.

Cory Doctorow: Copyrights vs. Human Rights


  1. There’s a very simple (and loathsome) explanation for the support of SOPA: You can’t buy a Bugatti Veyron with human rights. 

    1. But it’s not just America…this same unified corpotacracy is making a pretty honest go at ruling most of the world.

  2. tl;dr except for the part about DNS security…. You make “The DNS” out to be some organization like Twitter, Youtube, etc.. that can be held responsible. DNS and other  “free” technologies like TOR, and Bitorrent in trackerless mode offer no way to hold a single party responsible. SOPA doesn’t apply. I fail to see how DNS security ties into SOPA at all. SOPA might require US ISPs to de-list some sites from their DNS, but you can bet Twitter, Youtube, and Wikipedia won’t be among them. The sites being hawked in spam are the ones that will disappear.

    This piece suffers from the same problem that a lot of civil-rights concerns have: Even if the concern is valid, the concerned parties blow it up to such an extreme edge-case hypothetical abuse that knowledgeable people will scoff and the less-knowledgeable won’t even relate.

    1. I fail to see how DNS security ties into SOPA at all. SOPA might require US ISPs to de-list some sites from their DNS, but you can bet Twitter, Youtube, and Wikipedia won’t be among them.

      But there’d be no hope for the next Twitters and Googles making a start on the internet. And it would only be a matter of time before those with a “pass” are beaten into submission and/or uselessness by the relentless legal tide SOPA offers their enemies. There’s no doubt the endgame is the destruction of the internet by making it so poisonous to use, no one wants to bother with it.

    2. You can’t have trusted and secure DNS, which is the aim of DNSSEC, if you also allow arbitrary black holes in DNS to be made by national entities. And if DNS is not secured, say hello to more malicious hijacks than a site that deals in fake Louis Vitton bags being redirected to a scary warning.

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