SOPA Will Have Serious Implications For Sports Fans And Blogs
from the and-avoids-the-real-issue dept
This is a guest post from Brian Frederick, Executive Director of the Sports Fans Coalition and an assistant professor at Georgetown University.
Congress is currently considering legislation that could seriously harm sports fans and their favorite sports websites. If sports fans don’t speak up, some sports blogs could be shut down in the future for violating copyright or if users post links to sites that stream games online. Worse, those sports fans trying to find their favorite games streaming online will be more susceptible to identity theft and cyberattacks.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (the Senate version is known as PROTECT IP) is the latest attempt to crack down on illegal pirating of movies and music and sites that stream television programming. But this legislation is much more draconian than existing law — greatly expanding the reach of the federal government .
SOPA will target websites distributing pirated material and illegal online streaming by allowing copyright owners to shut down payments and ads to alleged infringers. Under current law, copyright owners (movie studios and record labels) must go to court to block such sites or demand copyrighted content be taken down. The new legislation allows copyright owners to effectively shut down websites simply by accusing them of having copyrighted materials without permission.
SOPA will also allow the Department of Justice to block those websites. The legislation lets the Attorney General get court orders sent to DNS server operators from resolving the domain names of sites in question to their corresponding Internet protocol addresses (DNS filtering). Search engines would also be required to remove or block links to sites that are accused of infringement. Finally, payment processors and Internet advertising services would be required to cease doing business with any sites that even contain links to online streaming sites.
The legislation is so extreme that a group of prominent Internet engineers penned a letter to SOPA’s sponsors stating that DNS filtering, as proposed, is “not technically feasible” and jeopardizes Internet security advances that have been in the works for 15 years. They explained that, in order to comply with court-ordered mandates in copyright cases, Internet service providers would have to choose between complying with those mandates or maintaining DNS security. In other words, this law will jeopardize total Internet security.
Of course, no one is condoning illegal websites that allow copyrighted content for free or stream copyrighted programming. But why should sports fans in particular be concerned?
For starters, as a result of this legislation, blogging networks like SB Nation, FanSided and others could effectively be shut down if users post too much copyrighted material or too many links to streaming sites. Some of these larger sites may have the resources to effectively police their comments to remove such posts but some individual fan sites may not. In addition, the legislation certainly contains a chilling effect on free speech.
More seriously, sports fans could be among the users most harmed if the DNS security is compromised. While a movie or music fan might think twice before downloading software or content from one of these sites, a sports fan faced with trying to catch the game in real time will be much more likely to throw caution to the wind and download whatever software is necessary to see the game. Sports fans are thus more likely to become victims of hackers.
Of course, sports fans shouldn’t have to turn to such sites in the first place, but the leagues take advantage of antitrust exemptions and public subsidies, yet still sell exclusive access to games. For instance, NFL fans, whose favorite team is in another city, have only one option for seeing all the games of their team: DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket package. Fans must shell out $350, switch providers and sign at least a two-year contract just to watch their favorite team.
Most of these fans would be willing to pay a fee to watch their games on the Internet, but the NFL will not offer that. So fans turn to (foreign) streaming sites on the web. As do fans who live in cities plagued by unethical and counterproductive blackouts.
When one streaming site gets shut down, another springs up, as do malicious new sites. As long as fans want access to their favorite games on the Internet – and the league is not providing it to them – these sites will continue to exist. Not only will this new legislation will be ineffectual in cracking down on such sites in general, it will likely leave sports fans who use these sites more susceptible to identity theft and cyberattacks.