How SOPA threatens the move to the cloud

The Stop Online Piracy Act could oblige cloud providers to harm their own customers

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in late October, would allow the Department of Justice and copyright holders to seek court orders to block payment processors and online advertising networks from doing business with foreign sites accused of infringing copyright.

If this thing passes, we could see court orders that bar search engines from linking to the allegedly infringing sites. Or most interesting, it would require domain name registrars to stop resolving queries that direct traffic to those sites -- and even require Internet service providers to block subscriber access to sites accused of infringing.

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As you may expect, nobody likes this act due to the potential for abuse. Indeed, in the last 30 days we've seen the Internet in an uproar. This includes a movement to boycott Go Daddy, which has now changed its tune on SOPA from supporting to not supporting.

Although few cloud providers have chimed in on this controversial issue, we did hear from Lanham Napier, CEO of Rackspace:

SOPA would require that Rackspace and other Internet service providers censor their customers with little in the way of due process, trumping the protections present in the current Digital Millennium Copyright Act. What's more, the SOPA bill would seriously disrupt the Domain Name Service that is crucial to the smooth operation of the Web.

The bottom line is that this legislation sounds like a good idea for those who make a living by providing copyrighted content. However, giving government the power to pull domains and block access could lead to instances where the innocent are caught up in a legal mess they can't afford to fight -- without due process.

On this issue, cloud providers such as Rackspace,, and Microsoft are between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They'll be forced to carry out these actions. But as a result -- at a time when businesses are moving data and content to the cloud -- SOPA would provide a reason not to trust cloud computing providers for fear one day the providers would be legally obliged to turn off the users' business, without a day in court. 

This article, "How SOPA threatens the move to the cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.