SOPA, while it’s not likely to be passed as-is, I would be willing to bet money that something SOPA-like will be passed. It may be watered down with many of the most offending parts removed, but for those backing SOPA it’ll still be a real victory. For them getting it on the books, even in a weakened form means it can be tweaked (and extended) later.
There’s been an amazing resistance to SOPA, from the boycott of GoDaddy to public statements from celebrities such as Adam Savage – the public outcry against this horrid piece of legislation has been quite inspiring. But how often will you be able to get so many people to stand up and take action before they start to lose interest? How many times can you raise the troops before the numbers start to dwindle; how long before the celebrities start fearing they’ll be branded in the media as extremist or crazy? How many times can you raise the call of breaking the internet and freedom of speech before the public gets bored and goes to read about the latest Hollywood divorce instead?
Here’s how I see it going:
- Strip many of the worst parts of SOPA and get it through congress. By removing these offending pieces, those backing SOPA will try to make themselves look responsive to the community, and it’ll be played as a victory for the community in the media. All in all, if you aren’t paying attention it’ll look like a victory for the people.
- Next year, introduce a bill to modify SOPA to change the wording here are there, edging it just a little closer to the original. If done carefully, it’ll be easy to dismiss those that try to stir up another outcry as over-reacting or even paranoid.
- In a few years after a series of modifications, we have SOPA, just as broad and dangerous as originally intended – and the vast majority of people who fought SOPA would have no idea.
If you have a financial motivation to get something like this passed, they key to success would be patience. Chip away slowly at DMCA Safe Harbor protections, at what requires a judge instead of an administrative action, at transparency so that any action ends up happening behind closed doors. In enough time you’ve established a law that gives the US Federal Government a massive amount of control of the internet, without oversight – all in a way designed to get offending web sites off the internet as quickly as possible. To say it would be ripe for abuse would be a massive understatement.
Am I being paranoid? I honestly hope so – I really hope that there aren’t people out there looking to limit the freedoms we cherish for their own profit, but the fact that SOPA was introduced in the first place makes that hard to believe.