Q: What's the latest with the Internet censorship bills in Congress and what can we do to help defeat them? - Joseph
A: There are two bills currently in Congress that should concern everyone that values an open and uncensored Internet; SOPA (H.R. 3261) which stands for the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and the Protect IP Act (S. 968) in the Senate.
Both of these bills have on their face the noble cause of fighting Internet piracy, but the way they are written, it's more legislation written by clueless cyber-tards.
When you dig into the details, it's just another example of what is causing so much dissent in our political process; powerful lobbies pushing for legislation that is clearly not in the best interest of the average citizen through legislators that have no clue about technological issues.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) along with most of the power brokers in the television & entertainment industry are the instigators of this overbearing legislation and there seems to be total disregard (or ignorance) for the obvious collateral damage they would cause.
In a nutshell, these bills aim to give any copyright holder an enormous sledge hammer to essentially shutdown access to any website that they deem to be in violation of their copyright with little to no recourse.
The way these bills are written, an entire website could be brought down if a single user posts anything that a copyright holder deems a violation.
Taken to the absurd, a video of your kids dancing around to a Beyonce hit could shut all of YouTube down if they didn't take your video down quickly.
It essentially puts the policing burden on every website, search engine, web hosting company or anyone that allows users to post anything.
There are plenty of laws on the books already that allow copyright holders to force sights to take down individual postings that infringe on their content, but the powerful entertainment industry wants a bigger hammer.
The humorous part of all of this is that the legislation's aim is to fight the very real problem of Internet piracy, but won't do a thing to impact it because of simple circumvention steps that most 13-year old techies already know.
When a website has been identified as one in violation, the law would mandate that it get added to a DNS blacklist that would no longer allow users in the United States to access it and for credit card processors and advertising systems to cut all ties with the site.
The DNS system translates your alpha website requests into the actual numeric equivalent known as the IP address. For instance, piratebay.org is one of the targets of this legislation because of its notoriety for hosting just about any content that you don't want to pay for.
If this legislation passes and they get blacklisted, then typing piratebay.org into your web browser will render a censorship notification, but if you type 188.8.131.52 you would still be able to get to the site.
The pirating community has already created huge lists of the IP addresses for all the websites that they presume will be the target of this legislation, rendering it completely useless for those that don't and will never pay any attention to our laws.
Fighting piracy is critically important, but the unintended consequences of poorly-crafted legislation could have a huge impact on the future of the Internet.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the Data Doctors Radio Program, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.