How SOPA Threatens ECM - and the Internet

By Dan Elam posted 01-24-2012 12:54



It’s been a week since Wikipedia shut down to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Originally expected to sail through rapid approval in Congress,  the subsequent lobbying efforts on the part of Google and internet users everywhere appears to have gotten the attention of the Obama administration who said they don’t approve the bill as currently written.  SOPA pits the major Hollywood movie and records studios against internet-based companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.  What you might not realize is that individual corporate users can get caught in the middle and it can affect your content management plans.

The Hollywood studios, naturally, want to prevent piracy and illegal copying of their works.  In past, if an illegal video was hosted on, say, YouTube, the copyright owner could claim the violation and the hosting company could remove the offending material.  YouTube couldn’t be sued under the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but providers also didn’t need to go to court.  They merely had to ask the hosting site.  The problem is that some hosting sites exist off-shore primarily to facilitate piracy.  These companies not only are hard to contact, but they are also unresponsive to copyright claims.

Enter SOPA.  The pending law has two key provisions.  First, search engines aren’t allowed to conduct businesses associated with infringing websites.  Second, the entire websites can basically be removed from the internet by removing their registrations with the Domain Name Servers (DNS) that control the traffic.  In the first scenario, a copyright holder could allege that Google or Bing supplies advertising fees to a popular website like Facebook.  (In fact, Google and Facebook are rivals and Google doesn’t pay Facebook, but Microsoft does with Bing.)  if a Facebook user posted a copyrighted photo of, say, Charlie Sheen, the actor would have the ability to ask a court to block the financial payments to Facebook and even claim the revenue for damages.  It doesn’t matter that Facebook’s users were the ones responsible.  Indeed, if you post a reply to this blog article here on the AIIM website and include copyrighted material, AIIM could be forced to forfeit their advertising and related revenue.  The first provision is designed for websites hosted in the US where the parties can “find” each other.  It doesn’t do much for international efforts.

The second provision does.  The DNS servers are basically a handful of computers in the world that contain the database of websites and IP addresses.  When you type in, the DNS server tells your computer that the physical IP address is really  Most users have no idea what the IP address actually is since the browsers and operating systems handle this translation.  SOPA allows the copyright holder to have the DNS servers remove the IP addresses, effectively making the website “disappear” from the internet.

For ECM cloud vendors SOPA represents significant concerns, especially since the US Justice Department just went after a company called and charged their foreign owners with criminal charges. was basically a file-sharing service that allowed users to share files like Flickr shares pictures or Vimeo sharing video. was used for legitimate purposes, but a primary emphasis did appear to be hosting copyrighted material.  A company like DropBox,, or SpringCM could be similarly liable under SOPA.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has warmed that sites like Flickr and Vimeo would likely be shut down and many other cloud vendors would be forced to move off-shore in order to avoid lawsuits.  One company, Filesonic, a UK company that offered file sharing collaboration that competed with some ECM cloud vendors, this week disabled all sharing capabilities amid speculation that the owners feared a similar charge by the DOJ.  Disabling the sharing is all the more ironic because Filesonic has been proactive in preventing even compressed copyrighted files from being uploaded.

As cloud becomes more prevalent, the risks for SOPA become more complex.  Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all offer a public cloud infrastructure that can be used for websites or even to underpin popular cloud offerings like Apple’s iCloud which stores users’ music, video, and documents files, presumably some of which may be copyrighted material.  If a copyright-holder determines that a user’s song is an infringement, could iCloud be disabled from the internet or would the entire cluster of Amazon servers that runs iCloud be cut-off?  A hosted Microsoft SharePoint or Exchange server in Microsoft’s cloud could similarly run afoul of SOPA if users transmit or store a file that is subject to copyright.

One final concern is over the future of the internet itself.  The US – and it’s laws – plays a unique role in the internet because the US Department of Commerce’s NTIA controls the authority for the DNS servers through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).  That means that US laws can trump foreign laws for those issues around DNS.  To date, the US has been steadfast in not abusing it’s position of basically controlling the internet.  But if other countries (like China or France) feel that the US is abusing its position, it is entirely possible that countries may fragment.  (Already Iran is trying to build their own internal internet to further isolate its population from western influences.)  A scenario where the internet breaks into country-specific implementations would ruin the internet as we know it.

Piracy is a certainly a problem, but SOPA  is not the answer. 

#SharePoint #Google #microsoft #cloud #sharepoint #ECM #iCloud #amazon #ElectronicRecordsManagement
1 comment


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