We’ve been seeing more questions about SOPA and what it means for our Canadian Web Hosting customers.  The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is an U.S. bill that, if passed, would give law enforcement and copyright holders a new level of recourse whenever it appears that their intellectual property has been infringed.   In short, it gives law enforcement the ability to target third parties that have helped “facilitate” or “enable” copyright infringement and gives the copyright holders a more active role in the process where alleged copyright violations have occurred.

What does this have to do with us, we’re Canadians not Americans?

As a matter of fact, a whole lot.  As an example, do you use Google? YouTube? Facebook?  If you do, you better think twice because these service providers (and many others) will become responsible for their users actions.  If you want to show a video to your friends of you playing a Beatles song, then you would be subject to these new regulations and because the service provider has to comply with these new requirements, they would be forced to restrict you/your account including surrendering the video, verifying your identity, etc.  In reading various blogs around the web, it is easy to see that there is a lot of concern and it isn’t hard to see the severity of the situation.

A company offering backup solutions recently sent out an email to its users, which (in part) discusses SOPA:

What is SOPA? This act allows content owners – movie companies, music labels, etc. – to obtain court orders requiring search providers such as Google to filter their search results to exclude websites that host allegedly infringing material, and requiring the net registrars to block DNS servers from providing the correct IP address for such sites. The act also makes site owners civilly liable for the availability of copyright material on their sites. In addition, it makes the posting of a link to a third party website that has copyright material on it the same as hosting the material on your own site.

Again, think about the sites that we all use everyday and the impact that it could potentially have on us.  There is one other very impact aspect that we will keeping our eyes on as this discussion continues.

Because of the broad manner by which SOPA sets up “censorship” safe guards, it could have a very real impact on how IP addresses are used within this law:

It defines “domestic Internet Protocol addresses” — the numeric strings that constitute the actual address of a website or Internet connection — as “an Internet Protocol address for which the corresponding Internet Protocol allocation entity is located within a judicial district of the United States.”  Yet IP addresses are allocated by regional organizations, not national ones. The allocation entity located in the U.S. is called ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers. Its territory includes the U.S., Canada and 20 Caribbean nations. This bill treats all IP addresses in this region as domestic for U.S. law purposes.  To put this in context, every Canadian Internet provider relies on ARIN for its block of IP addresses. In fact, ARIN even allocates the block of IP addresses used by federal and provincial governments. The U.S. bill would treat them all as domestic for U.S. law purposes.

For the purposes of SOPA, it would essentially “pretend” that all foreign sites and providers are domestic potentially including Canadian web sites.   While we don’t think our Canadian customers will be directly impacted by this, it does create a scenario where future iterations of this law could impact us directly through the creation of cross-border agreements or access to entities that control distribution and access to the internet.  What do you think?