Because it's our world too

Using Game Theory to Break the SOPA Code

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in technology news | 1 comment

Blog featured picture by Daniel Millsap

If then but so

My neighbor was known for his wild parties. I could never sleep at night with all the crashing noises outside as he and his friends threw empty beer bottles against the brick wall. I tried calling him but he told me that it was a free country and that I should screw off. I couldn’t think of a way to get through to him so one day I started polishing my sniper rifle in the window opposite his house, like I always do but this time with the shades wide open. And Ill be darned; he hasn’t thrown a party since.

How a Game Theorist Might Look at SOPA

Introduction

Sometimes it’s impractical to pick up the phone and have a talk with the world about what you would like to accomplish, so sometimes it’s a lot easier to find alternative means of sending your message. Something that is strong enough to get your attention but subtle enough to convey what it is that can’t be said outright.

We (the government) would like the ability to immediately deny access to a website that, shall we say,”endangers public health” and worry about the little details like court orders etc later.

SEC. 102. ACTION BY ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PROTECT U.S. CUSTOMERS AND PREVENT U.S. SUPPORT OF FOREIGN INFRINGING SITES.
(b) ACTION BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL.—
(5) RELIEF.—On application of the Attorney General following the commencement of an action under this section, the court may issue a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, or an in-junction, in accordance with rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, against a registrant of a domain name used by the foreign infringing site or an owner or operator of the foreign infringing site or, in an action brought in rem under paragraph (2), against the foreign infringing site or a portion of such site, or the domain name used by such site, to cease and desist from undertaking any further activity as a foreign infringing site.

Now Before you object, let me tell you how we can make your life difficult if you choose not to cooperate with us.

(4) ENFORCEMENT OF ORDERS.–
(A) IN GENERAL.—To ensure compliance with orders issued pursuant to this section, the Attorney General may bring an action for injunctive relief—(i) against any entity served under paragraph (1) that knowingly and willfully fails to comply with the requirements of this subsection to compel such entity to comply with such requirements; or
(c) ACTIONS BASED ON COURT ORDERS.—
2) REASONABLE MEASURES.
(A) SERVICE PROVIDERS.—
(i) IN GENERAL.—A service provider (also Internet Search Engines, Payment Network Providers, Internet Advertising Services) shall take technically feasible and reason- able measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order, including measures designed to prevent the domain name of the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) from resolving to that domain name’s Internet Protocol address. Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.

But we don’t REALLY want to make your life more difficult. Look harder and you will see.

(ii) LIMITATIONS.—A service provider shall not be required- I) other than as directed under this subparagraph, to modify its network, software, systems, or facilities; and
4) ENFORCEMENT OF ORDERS.—
C) DEFENSE.—A defendant in an action under subparagraph (A)(i) may establish an afirmative defense by showing that the defendant does not have the technical means to comply with this subsection without incurring an unreasonable economic burden, or that the order is not authorized by this subsection.

What do you say we forget the whole thing? But we will need a small favor from you. Do the job for us. It will be our little secret.

SEC. 105. IMMUNITY FOR TAKING VOLUNTARY ACTION AGAINST SITES THAT ENDANGER PUBLIC HEALTH.
(a) REFUSAL OF SERVICE.—A service provider, payment network provider, Internet advertising service, advertiser, Internet search engine, domain name registry, or domain name registrar, acting in good faith and based on credible evidence, may stop providing or refuse to provide services to an Internet site that endangers thepublic health.
(b) IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY.—An entity described in subsection (a), including its directors, officers, employees, or agents, that ceases or refuses to provide services under subsection (a) shall not be liable to any person under any Federal or State law for such action.

Conclusion

Things aren’t always as they appear to be, and many different readers may interpret things in their own special way. Sometimes, if we watch very carefully, we may observe the magician’s secret while he is busy trying to keep us fixated on his other hand waving about in the air.

Solutions and Recommendations

  • Read the bill for yourself.
  • Don’t rely on second and third-hand interpretations from your favorite website (or even mine!)
  • Don’t let others frame the issue for you because, before you know it, you will be looking at the issue in the way they want you to, which keeps you from seeing the real issue itself.
  • Resist the urge to constrain your interpretations to only a few possibilities. Make a list of questions as you read that strike you as odd or that connect from one area of knowledge to the next. Have you seen any similar patterns before?
  • Put yourself in the actors’ shoes. If you were in the shoes of each party, what would you do?

Supporting Documentation

govtrack.us > Congress > Legislation > H.R. 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act

PDF version of SOPA I used for interpretation (mirror site)

Daniel Millsap

One Comment

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  1. Richard

    I never thought of it that way. I like how you thought out of the box.
    R.

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