Why #SOPA Might not be so bad: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Yesterday, many websites, including this one, went black to protest the Stop Online Privacy Act, or SOPA. Today, I want to look at it from a different perspective, Why #SOPA Might not be so bad: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

One idea that had had been part of SOPA was DNS blocking. The idea being that if some site was violating copyright law, law enforcement officials could get the names block from DNS. Presumably, this would have been done through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the registrars it accredits.

ICANN is a $60 million business headquartered in California. There have been lots of issues about how it is governed and whether it should be turned over to U.N. control.

One of the things about the Internet is that it was built to adapt to, and route around things that damage it. The DNS provision of SOPA would have encourage more people to find ways of bypassing ICANN. One alternative to ICANN is the OpenNIC project. It is actually pretty easy to change your computer to use OpenNIC.

To the extent the SOPA or related bills would block ports or IP addresses, projects like TOR could help people get around these blocks. TOR has been used when repressive regimes try to block Internet access. If the U.S. joined the community of repressive regimes trying to block Internet access, it would encourage greater innovation in the TOR project and related projects. Such efforts might also encourage people to start adopting IPv6 as another way of getting around blocking.

Then, there are the financial aspects. Blocking people from doing financial transactions with U.S. financial institutions won't stop people from doing financial transactions, it would only cause them to find new ways of doing them. For my friends that want a return to the gold standard, it might encourage people to move towards more forms on online, virtual gold.

The problem with so many of these systems ends up being how trust worthy they are. Can we trust OpenNIC or online gold traders? If the U.S. Government implements draconian measures to protect a small set of large corporations, more people may find they can trust others more than they can trust the U.S., and that might even lead towards the development of better trust models.

Ultimately, Congress' responsibility is "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". SOPA and related anti-privacy acts may end up doing that through the law of unintended consequences, not by making sure that authors and inventors get paid, but by encouraging inventors to find ways of bypassing draconian laws.