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Krish Ashok is a blogger, humourist, techie, columnist, liitle bit violin player, lot of fool-player.

Google in Gitmo? SOPA is all shoot first and questions later

f you tried to do your homework this week by indulging in the intellectually honest manoeuvre of copy pasting an article from Wikipedia, you might have found that it was "blacked out" for a period of time. In case you were wondering why, let me tell you that it was the Internet's protest against 2 bills introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate respectively. One is called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the other one, PIPA (Protect IP Act). Now, I am not a student of political science or a journalist, so I can't explain these bills in a cogent, politically relevant manner. What I can do is explain them using the metaphor of US foreign policy. You might wonder how I can claim to not understand political science and yet use US foreign policy to explain these bills. Well, anyone in the world can explain US foreign policy, except American citizens themselves, so no credentials are required. So here we go.

Let's say an American interest has control of some resource and suddenly it finds that there are other foreign parties who have expressed some sort of a fleeting interest. Let's say that is resource is, hypothetically, um, "coconut hair oil". Now instead of only Americans using it to slick their hairs Italian Keralite gangtsa style, some other parties are slathering it on. Now this annoys aforementioned American interest, but then, how does one respond? Negotiation? No. Parley? No. Dialogue? No. Full-blown shock and awe missile launches. America! Four-letter-word yeah! But that's not enough. Let's say some relatives of these foreign parties who have absolutely no connection to the matter but send home hard earned US dollars to their folks back home are also threatened, arrested and thrown into Guantanamo Bay.

SOPA essentially says that any server outside the US “hosting” copyrighted content that belongs to someone in the US must be nuked to oblivion.

ow replace the coconut oil resource with "copyrighted content" and foreign parties with servers hosting content that Americans consider to be a "violation of copyright" and "relatives of foreign parties" with "search engines/online Ad networks/DNS servers and payment systems" and you will quickly understand exactly what's going on. SOPA essentially says that any server outside the US "hosting" copyrighted content that belongs to someone in the US must be nuked to oblivion and any search engine/ad network/payment system or DNS servers linking to that content must immediately stop doing so or have their datacenters arrested and escorted to Guantanamo Bay.

For starters, this is a shoot first and ask questions later kind of bill. It insists that search engines et al comply first with removing the life support of those sites before that site has any chance to prove its case. This is kind of like a hospital threatening to pull the plug on the ventilator of a patient because the chap who has to pay the bill left his wallet in the car and has to run back to it to retrieve it. More than that, what constitutes a "copyright violation" in the US may not be a violation in several other countries. But then, to go back to the foreign policy metaphor, it is not unknown for "presumed terrorists" to be put through a "extraordinary rendition" process to be first kidnapped and move to a place where certain laws do not apply and then punished for their presumed crimes.

Well, they eventually agreed to water the bill down, but guess what, in classic Hegelian fashion, they have managed to pull the trick of introducing something draconian, see massive protests against it and then replace it with a watered down version which is good enough for those in power. And very bad for the rest of us.

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