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Kaspersky did the right thing in stand against SOPA

Dec 07, 20113 mins
IT Leadership

Kaspersky Lab deserves a high five from the security community for quitting the Business Software Alliance (BSA) over its support for SOPA.

As I’ve written before, the Internet blacklist legislation known as PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House is a security threat that must be stopped.

We have to seriously question the scruples of any organization that supports this ridiculous legislation, which takes a reasonable desire to stop online piracy and takes it way too far by giving the government power to trample on our freedom of speech.

Here’s the Kaspersky news, as reported by colleague John E Dunn:

Kaspersky Lab has unexpectedly quit the Business Software Alliance (BSA) anti-piracy organisation over its tacit support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation currently being debated in the US House of Representatives.

Having joined the BSA only 18 months ago, the Russian company said it would discontinue its membership on 1 January 2012.

“Kaspersky Lab is aware of the public controversy and debates sparked by the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Kaspersky Lab is occasionally mentioned in the discussion as a member of the Business Software Alliance, which supports the SOPA initiative,” read Kaspersky’s statement.

“Kaspersky Lab would like to clarify that the company did not participate in the elaboration or discussion of the SOPA initiative and does not support it. Moreover, the company believes that the SOPA initiative might actually be counter-productive for the public interest, and decided to discontinue its membership.”

The BSA recently soft-peddled its previously robust support for SOPA in a blog but that clearly wasn’t good enough for Kaspersky, which also implied that it hadn’t been consulted on the BSA’s policy towards the legislation.

“Valid and important questions have been raised about the bill. It is intended to get at the worst of the worst offenders. As it now stands, however, it could sweep in more than just truly egregious actors,” said the BSA president Robert Holleyman in a blog on 21 November.

However, in a carefully-crafted statement he refused to acknowledge more specific criticisms of a piece of legislation that has deeply divided the technology industry.

I have no sympathy for the BSA on this one. Whenever an organization chooses to support legislation, the expectation is that it reads every last detail of a bill — including the potential drawbacks — before publicly supporting it.

I’m going to give the BSA the benefit of the doubt and assume it simply missed the passages in the legislation that would give litigious copyright holders lopsided power to seek court orders targeting many legitimate websites, including sites with user-generated content such as Twitter, YouTube and many, many blogs.

If BSA did indeed read every line and still chose to support this assault on Internet freedom, then its members should feel ashamed.

I’m glad Kaspersky saw the light and took a stand. Maybe it will help the BSA see the error of its ways and lead it to drop all support for this legislation.

The BSA took a step in the right direction when it acknowledged the flaws. Now it needs to take a stronger stand and tell Congress to shelve this bad idea and start over.

–Bill Brenner

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