Friday, January 20, 2012

My thoughts on the root cause of SOPA/PIPA ACTs

Internet should be available for everyone!
Well, in the context of this post, above statement is an oxymoron, because the whole parts of Internet is not available in all countries due to their political borders and (still alive to this day) totalitarian governments, but nevertheless, I mentioned it to signify the intent behind the birth of Internet. Here are my thoughts.
The Creators Vision:
It was an unimaginable situation for the people who worked in the early days of Internet to at least envision the kind of impact/change their work is going to create, let it be J.C.R. Licklider who foresaw Interactive Computing before its birthVint Cerf & Bob Kahn, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrentkey architects of TCP/IP, the two protocols which dictates majority of the Internet traffic, or Tim Berners-Lee, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent (the guy who made everything else possible with the creation of World Wide Web, also honoring other countless unsung heroes who worked day and night in creating a reality which broke all borders and gave people a common platform to share, collaborate and raise their voice against any kind of atrocities around the world. None of the people who brought the Internet into reality had vested interests to make it as an asset or commodity for sale in order to fill up their pockets. By nature and design the architecture of Internet is Open, before the security and piracy came in to picture, the former is for a good cause unlike the latter.
E-Commerce one of the Internet’s growth catalyst:
The important stage in the growth of Internet started with the era of E-Commerce,  where we are given the options to buy products or avail services without going to a store. This is one of the key point in the history of Internet where the corporations and big companies started to  invest more money on publicity/marketing and selling their goods and services., bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, TorrentThe motivations of any company who participated in E-Commerce is to use the Internet simply as a medium to sell their products/services (no matter how crappy and shitty they are) to consumers, things got worse when the the entertainment industries figured out that their money generating content can be stuffed into 0’s and 1’s and can be easily transferred over internet to anyone at any part of the world without even a trace. Prior to this, file sharing was an open activity in the Internet which actually helped programmers (who built the internet), bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent around the world to share their piece of code, like say from Australia to another programmer in London. Nobody had a hint that file sharing one day becomes a crime. Fortunately the motives to block file sharing did not come from the patent trolls like Microsoft or Apple, but unfortunately, it comes from a rather unusual industry and what's more sad to know is they were neither part of Internet’s evolution nor contributed to its growth, they are discussed under SOPA and PIPA section below.
Birth of file sharing:
Usenet is the first place in the Internet where file sharing seeds were sown, by design Usenet is basically a discussion system (like the modern day forums), but it was also used to distribute binary content as text in ASCII set (to know more on how it was used to transfer files click here) to other peers., bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent Usenet was a busy place, It was this place that helped creative individuals in software development field in building the internet and also the tools that helped it. The prominent people who used its services include Linus Torvalds (the brain behind Linux operating system)Marc Andreessen (the creator of the first usable internet browser which lead to the Internet Boom in 90’s) and Tim Berners-Lee (the brainchild behind the WWW). It was all fine for a while, but people started using Usenet as a medium to distribute commercial software and copyright material which sparked fear in the minds of companies  developing proprietary software, and until Napster, this wasn’t took seriously.
The story of Napster:
Napster is a peer-to-peer (also termed as P2P) file sharing service that allowed people to share their compressed mp3 files over the Internet., bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent In the initial days it was all good because Napster’s architecture and most of the P2P applications successfully blocks the usage of Transitory Network Transmission which is not supposed to be used by a service provider who’s Internet traffic is under question, this is one among the four basic rules imposed by DMCA Section 512 “Safe Harbors”. The encoding of information in mp3 format kicked off the P2P era, because most of the audio in 90’s was released either in tapes and audio CDs and using DAE (Digital Audio Extraction), Audio CDs are ripped and stored as small size mp3 files gradually reducing the size from 40-50 MB to less than 5 MB which dramatically encouraged wide variety of ripping techniques and also sparked the intents to transfer the content to other peers over the internet due to the small size., bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, TorrentThe ease of creating and sharing mp3 audio resulted in widespread of copyright infringement and Napster was the only service at that time specialized exclusively in music focused online service which ultimately led to legal challenges and even to a shutdown when Metallica reported their songs are being circulated even before release (click here for the lawsuit).
The raise of BitTorrent:
It is really unfortunate to see these valuable technologies and services being termed as illegal activities just because they won’t fit in the corporate businesses interests. The war on peer-to-peer and file sharing services is a never ending story., bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent Since Napster, there were around literally thousands of services which helped users to avail their services in moving content of any type over the internet, most prominent among them includes the P2P BitTorrent protocol which still exists and serves millions of users around the globe. The careful design of BitTorrent protocol is its main success. In BitTorrent realm the, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent actual file nor its location is specified to the viewer rather it is presented as an Magnetic URI with a unique cryptographic hash code which tracks the resource around the world using the .torrent file along with some metadata.  Hosting these files/links on a site is completely legal as they does not have the actual information about the content or nature of a file but still it led to a war on BitTorrent hosting sites like piratebay and some of them were made to shutdown completely, only to be reborn with much pun and much pwnage.
The recent unprecedented rage on Internet was due to a bill which is on its way to become a reality, named as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its sister bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) are by nature very notorious laws which trashes the existing copyright infringement laws including DMCA, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent and gives complete control to the Government authorities and the ISPs or any other affiliates under them to control, interpret and block the accessibility of content available in the Internet. The worst part is, it gives the full power to land an innocent in jail for simply coping an image which is copy protected. Both these laws are triggered and backed by the big names in the Entertainment industries: MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), RIAA (Recording Industry Artists Association), UMG (Universal Music Groupwith some heavy kickbacks to the representatives in US congress to implement them. Fortunately  the move is losing its pace due to the uprising voice on the Internet and the strong support from lot of organizations and companies (click here for the complete list) and finally the creator of SOPA pulled the bill due to the strong protests, but it is not a win, not yet! Bills like SOAP/PIPA or DMCA are dangerous to the very existence of the Internet. Just look at the recent shutdown of Megaupload (click here for full article)… Anyways it's back online after couple of hours.
My closing note:
One way or the other we have all the potential and resources to fight these things and teach lessons to the money minded business people, but when we actually look at the bigger picture and check the root cause, the entertainment industries gets all their business from artists who got talent and these artists get their royalties paid from these organizations by selling their talents. The thing which amazes me why do creative artists depend on these meaningless organizations for selling their talents? is it for the funding?, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent if that is the reason there are lot of ways to get funds and lot of Open Platforms available for free of charge! I might sound silly, but this would actually work! and there are lot of people who are giving away their talented works for free maybe the returns might be less but at least they are happy. Let it be music, art or any creative works. People in Open Source community know what exactly I am talking about and they know about its potential. As long as the artists depends on corporations for money and brand value, the creative seeds of a society will die because of the draconian laws like SOPA, PIPA, DMCA. I am not an artist but I believe, being an artist, a successful artist, should realize the actual outcomes of their actions and impacts on a society. The dependencies on the entertainment companies is an old story when the  musicians did not have all the resources to sell their music through tapes, vinyl and CDs,  but we are in 21st century and there is no real reason to depend on these obsolete technologies which gave these entertainment industries the power to pass some meaningless bills and there is no real or meaningful reason to depend on them anyway either! I believe MPAA, RIAA, UMG, bvkmohan, SOPA, PIPA, Internet, Free Speech, Open Internet, File Sharing, DMCA, Torrent should have run out of business a longtime back because we have all the resources now at hand to promote our creative ideas without any dependencies. If I start to produce music I would give my first album for free over the Internet and if people recognizes me as talented then I would still give it away for free. I am sure talented works never get wasted I might not lead a lavish lifestyle but at least I would be happy for what I am doing. Haven’t they done enough? these corporations are producing junk assets like justin bieber and his shitty music to mint money from clueless, tasteless young people. Aren’t these musicians and artists motivated by talents rather than money? If I am wrong then my post is just meaningless, you figure it out. Thanks for reading.

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