Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No to SOPA/PIPA

The recent pate of governmental snooping and intrusion reminds me of a situation that arose about a decade ago. I was asked to give my opinion about a 'manager of the future' program which allowed screen-sharing of any PC on our network without the knowledge of the users. I asked if there were productivity issues which prompted this decision. When told there weren't, I asked if this software and its implementation would be a productivity drain.

It seems that someone passed a co-worker's cubicle and saw a news website on the screen while the PC was not in use. The perception, of course, was that there was misuse, therefore some form of loss. The reality was, although resources were not being utilized for an intended purpose, those resources being misused did not result in a net loss of productivity.

We didn't get the software.

The same is true for the new SOPA/PIPA bills which are threatening to be passed into law. Someone raises an alarm, yet no one is analyzing whether there truly is a loss. Websites will be shut down that do not violate any law to protect a victim that may not have taken a loss, at all. The perception of loss overrides the logical analysis that should be taken before something like this passes.

Everything deserves a cost-benefit analysis. You set values to everything included in the analysis. In the case of over-reaching government, you must first ask if there truly is a violation of life, liberty or property before assigning resources to counter this violation. If the cost in collateral rights exists to at least an equal level, you do not have an efficient process by which to protect said life, liberty or property.

With SOPA/PIPA, the mere accusation of loss, without any trial, is enough to cause loss with the shutdown of a website. Violations of intellectual property, or IP, are highly subjective, as are the damages sustained from the violation. At the mere accusation that IP is being violated, however, a business could be completely destroyed. This is not an efficient process AT ALL.

As the 'manager of the future' would have put all the employees on edge, leaving PCs unused while other more resource consuming and less efficient processes replaced them, SOPA will have a chilling effect on those who use the internet. In an age where free speech and communication relies heavily on this technology, such a law would be a huge step down towards the ant-hill of tyranny. This is not something a free society should embrace.

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