SOPA in Plain English

This post is for me to point folks to who are asking about why all those black “Stop SOPA” banners are popping up all over the internet. In a way, editing the DNS infrastructure of the internet in order to disappear sites suspected of pirating is the same as people who wash out their kid’s mouths after they swear. It ain’t gonna clean up their foul language.

Even better, Cory Doctorow posted a great rant on how this is just one part of a larger arc that he’s been following. In the post is a great paragraph that helped me explain SOPA to my 12 year old son.

If I turned up, pointed out that bank robbers always make their escape on wheeled vehicles, and asked, “Can’t we do something about this?”, the answer would be “No”. This is because we don’t know how to make a wheel that is still generally useful for legitimate wheel applications, but useless to bad guys. We can all see that the general benefits of wheels are so profound that we’d be foolish to risk changing them in a foolish errand to stop bank robberies. Even if there were an epidemic of bank robberies—even if society were on the verge of collapse thanks to bank robberies—no-one would think that wheels were the right place to start solving our problems.

It’s worth reading Cory’s whole post over on BoingBoing, Lockdown, the coming war on general purpose computing.

The time is getting short to let Congress and Senate know where you stand on this important issue. To contact your representatives, go to


Looks like the tide has turned and the discussion around SOPA and it’s sister bill PIPA has been postponed. For another excellent, plain English intro to these bills, check out Clay Shirky’s talk which brings some historical perspective to this conversation and how this is just the beginning. More to follow.






2 responses to “SOPA in Plain English”

  1. Tilly McLain Avatar

    Looks like even the guy who wrote SOPA needs clarification:

    1. iankennedy Avatar

      How ironic. The author of the SOPA bill is in violation of copyright!

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