Missing the Mark

SOPA related posts have dominated HN and Reddit for the last several weeks, as well it should. More recently, network administrators of the world have united against GoDaddy, who was for-SOPA, before they were not-quite-against-it.

December 29th is now ‘Leave GoDaddy Day’, but boycotters beware; transferring domains is an error prone and potentially risky process which can result in downtime. Several HOWTO articles have been written since the boycott started, followed by reports of failed transfers, finger pointing that GoDaddy was obstructing the process, and downtime for anyone using GoDaddy DNS before they tried to transfer.

I’m not saying that transferring your domains isn’t worth it. My wife has been asking me to move away from GoDaddy since their last CEO was filmed trophy hunting elephants in Africa. I transferred a few of my domains away from GoDaddy, some of which ported properly, and some of which are stuck in NS-limbo, and who knows where they’ll end up. Several hundred dollars later, my domains’ expiration dates are pushed back a year, and everything else is pretty much the same in the world.

Boycotting can be an effective way to support a cause and raise awareness, but calling for admins to transfer their domains seems more like a geeky circle jerk. It might make us all feel better to have participated, but did we really make a difference? Perhaps we could focus on another aspect of SOPA, the new felony count for ‘public performance’ — otherwise known as streaming — a copyrighted work.

Despite what some other sites are saying, you are a felon under SOPA if you stream a single copyrighted work to 10 people in 180 days. You might want to reconsider the soundtrack on your holiday video. Simply put, if you post it, and you set it to ‘Public’, you could be a willful infringer, and you might be spending your next Christmas in a prison camp.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that YouTube would take the fall; you’d be better off trying to blame your router, or maybe say your neighbors hacked your WiFi. If you think juries might be sympathetic to the evil record labels coming after you, just remember Jammie Thomas-Rasset. While juries have repeatedly awarded multi-million dollar damages to the record labels, at least our judges have the common sense to reduce the awards after the fact.

What is the right way to deal with all this rampant piracy, the magnitude and effects of which are clearly tearing apart the social fabric of our country?

YouTube has a system they call ‘Content ID’ which allows copyright holders to locate potentially infringing content. See: http://www.youtube.com/t/contentid

What is Content ID?

YouTube’s state-of-the-art technologies let rights owners:

  • Identify user-uploaded videos comprised entirely OR partially of their content, and
  • Choose, in advance, what they want to happen when those videos are found. Make money from them. Get stats on them. Or block them from YouTube altogether.

So on one hand you have Government figuring out innovative new ways to put citizens behind bars, and on the other you have Private Enterprise figuring out innovative new ways to put dollars in right holders’ pockets.

The technology and infrastructure for creating, distributing, and sharing content on the internet is still, even as we enter 2012, in its infancy. While record labels are still struggling to understand the futility of DRM, entrepreneurs understand the lunacy of trying to fine someone, even jail someone, for sharing their content with others. In fact, sharing is the most valuable thing your users could ever do for you. In the end, it will be the rights holders calling for the decriminalization of sharing along with the rest of us. Hopefully sooner than later.