SoftLayer manages more than 100,000 servers in thirteen data centers around the world. We have more than 23,000 customers, and those customers are responsible for millions of websites (which get billions of pageviews every month). We’re one of the largest hosting providers in the world, and we want to talk a little about the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261 or “SOPA”).
Many in our industry have already commented (and in some cases, “changed their minds”) on SOPA and its equally evil twin, the PROTECT IP Act (“PIPA”) in the Senate, but we wanted to share our perspective on the legislation. Even with these Dudley-Do-Right, Goody-Two-Shoes titles and their ambitious goals, SoftLayer opposes these bills in their current forms because they expose innocent and law-abiding hosting companies to uncertain liabilities.
Because this legislation has gotten quite a bit of attention in the past few months, you’re probably already familiar with it, but if you haven’t paid much attention, we can give you a quick summary: As you can read in the name of the bill, SOPA is being proposed to “Stop Online Piracy.” SOPA is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, and its intent is to provide additional enforcement tools to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting. That’s a great goal, and SoftLayer does not oppose the intent of the Act … As you saw from Kevin Hazard’s blog post a few weeks ago, we have a team of people working all the time to track down and immediately address any violations of our terms of service (including copyright infringement), so we wholeheartedly agree that copyright infringement and counterfeiting are bad.
The way SOPA tries to address the problem is where we disagree with the bill, so let’s talk about the most pertinent part of the bill for a service provider like SoftLayer. If SOPA were to pass, when a case of infringement is reported, we would have to “take such measures as [we determine] to be the least burdensome, technically feasible, and reasonable means designed to prevent access by [our] subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order.”
What that means: We would be forced to turn off our customers’ access to a small piece of the Internet.
How are we to do that? Well the “least burdensome, technically feasible, and reasonable means designed to prevent access” are not made clear, but most of the discussions about the bill have focused on changing the way the Doman Name System (DNS) resolves to an “infringing site.” We’d be more or less ordered to break DNS … DNS was designed to simply, accurately and quickly match a domain name with the IP address that domain’s owner provides, and if SOPA were to pass, we’d have to tell DNS to behave correctly for every site EXCEPT the reported infringing sites. Again, that’s not spelled out in the legislation, so it’s like being given a job by someone who has no idea how to do the job nor whether the job is even possible to successfully complete.
And that’s all assuming that the order to suspend access to an “infringing site” is legitimate. Many of the organizations that oppose SOPA have explained possible scenarios where orders could be filed under the guise of preventing copyright infringement. A competing site/business could claim:
“the operator of the site operates the site with the object of promoting, or has promoted, its use to carry out acts that constitute a violation of section 501 or 1201 of title 17, United States Code, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster such violation.”
In another scenario, a copyright holder could pull the trigger on an order simply at the thought that a user could infringe on a copyright on/via the “infringing site.”
When the United States House of Representatives reconvenes after its winter recess, we will be watching intently with hopes that the Internet’s response to the bill has effectively derailed it in its current form. As SoftLayer General Council Suzy Fulton mentioned in her post about Texas House Bill 1841, we’ve been working with an industry group called TechAmerica which submitted a letter to Congress about SOPA and many of the issues that could negatively affect our industry. Additionally, we’ve gotten involved with SaveHosting.org to speak out against laws that can hurt our customers.
As discussions continue about SOPA, we’ll look for opportunities to share more of our insight with you here on our blog. Please let us know your thoughts about the legislation below.