It’s Not Just Technical: There are Legal Reasons Why SOPA and PROTECT-IP Are Wrong

Mark Lemley, David S. Levin, and David G. Post write in the Stanford Law Review that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect-IP are misguided laws that take a “sledgehammer” approach to policing the Internet without judicial oversight. They write:

These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country’s tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.

via Don’t Break the Internet – Stanford Law Review.

It’s almost Christmas, but Santa needs some help giving coal to the big media financed congressional representatives and senators. Go here to find out how to give ’em hell!

First spied on BoingBoing here.

American Censorship Day, Tell Congress that You Don’t Want the Internet Censored!

Today is the ad hoc American Censorship Day. Why? A committee in the House of Representatives has stacked their deck of experts 5 to 1 in favor of the SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act. Even though this law could radically change the way the Internet works in the US (so that it can be restricted in the same way that it is restricted in China, Iran, and Syria), many congressional members support this law and they do not want public dissenting voices to be heard during committee. Techdirt has coverage of the hearing today here.

SOPA and Protect-IP are intended to put the thumbscrews on online discussion, fair use, and entrepreneurship. This infographic explains the potential effects of the bill if made law.

This is another example of our elected officials catering to outmoded big business. Big media wants to consolidate its control over the Internet, because those companies are unwilling to adjust their business models to the here-and-now. Instead, they want to flex their money-muscle and reconfigure the Internet so that they remain on top. I suppose this is the logic of capital. Increased regulation helps diversify the market, which leads to benefits for consumers. Conglomerates and virtual monopolies do not want this. Instead, they want to solidify their own position by hijacking the democratic process and putting laws in place that not only gives them added control over the primary medium of discourse but also further criminalizes previously non-criminal acts.

Go to the American Censorship Day website here, and send an email (or even better–call them!) letting your representatives know that you are against SOPA/Protect-IP.

PROTECT-IP Is Now E-PARASITE Bill, Made Worse for US Citizens Thanks to Business-Beholden Congress

There’s another reason why folks are fightin’ mad (at least in a non-violent, occupy wall street sort of way) at big business’ collusion with government: the PROTECT IP/E-PARASITE bill. If you thought the DMCA was bad, you really ought to check out what our Congress have in store for the little person and their ability to use the Internet.

In another leap away from reasonable accommodations for citizens’ rights to fair use and measured legal interventions in the way media businesses can enforce their rights over copyright infringers, the US Senate and House are competing with one another to make the best pro-big media bill ever.

The new bill extends the enforcement of law to overseas entities, which would lead to censorship of sites abroad for American eyes. It nukes DMCA safe harbors and methods of intervention to the law. It will give too much power to an industry to regulate what can and cannot be seen and accessed online. And, it takes the court out of the process of claims alleged by big business against supposedly infringing websites. Therefore, it is a form of censorship by governmental fiat and business enforcement.

Of course, supporters of the bill claim that it will only be used against truly infringing websites. As we have seen since the passage of the DMCA, prosecutions follow the letter and not the spirit of the law. Also since that time, we have seen businesses repeatedly use DMCA takedown notices to intimidate individuals employing the fair use doctrine to give up on their rights.

I’m not sure what can be done to fight this. Obviously, politicians are in the pockets of big business and big media regardless of whether they want to or not, especially since the Citizens United v FEC ruling of the Supreme Court. I have used the forms on FightTheFuture here to send letters to my congressional members from Ohio, but the Ohioans sent me form letters saying they were essentially behind the bill. However, there is something to be said about some big businesses not liking the possible new law: Google’s Eric Schmidt vows to fight it even if it becomes law. That something is that the future might be fought by corporations and we get to deal with the consequences.

Read more on Slashdot here, Arstechnica here, and Techdirt here.

SC Republican Senator DeMint Wants to Torpedo FCC Efforts to Promote Net Neutrality

CNET posted the new bill proposed by Senator James DeMint and five other Republicans that would limit the FCC’s ability to promote net neutrality. Seeing that AT&T and Comcast have made sizable contributions to DeMint’s election campaign, it is unsurprising that he would clamber over his constituents and the citizens of the United States for the chance to win his true masters’ (i.e., big media and Internet service providers) favor. Full disclosure of his top 100 contributors including AT&T, Comcast, Cellular Telecom & Internet Assn, and The Club for Growth (all with anti-net neutrality stances) on opensecrets.org here.

The CNET article author, Declan McCullagh, begins by writing, “Seven Republican senators have announced a plan to curb the Obama administration’s push to impose controversial Net neutrality regulations on the Internet.” I have seen the modifier “controversial” in many locations recently as the FCC has tried to follow its mandate for broadband access: “All Americans should have affordable access to robust and reliable broadband products and services. Regulatory policies must promote technological neutrality, competition, investment, and innovation to ensure that broadband service providers have sufficient incentive to develop and offer such products and services” [Full broadband goals here]. The only controversy that figures into the FCC’s plans has to do with that created by the conglomerate broadband providers and wireless carriers who use astroturfing sites such as Hands Off the Internet and congressional avatars to argue that net neutrality will endanger jobs and impede the growth of the Internet. With the de facto net neutrality that we have enjoyed for a number of years now, the Internet has blossomed into a necessity of modern living and a jobs aggregator. What it can also become is a new means for itemized exploitation of Internet users. What we are seeing now with AT&T’s shift to new restricted wireless data plans (and Verizon’s impending shift from unlimited to capped data accounts) is the same sort of thing that we can expect from internet providers if the Internet is not regulated by the FCC. In this case, we the people can use the government as leverage against big corporations that would like to squeeze every dollar from our pockets without returning the favor with better products, more robust services, and updated infrastructure. The corporations want to take without necessarily giving anything back. They want to sell us their vision of an Internet based on tiers, prioritized access, and more paywalls, and they want to call their imposition on us a choice. I don’t see innovation and choice in something that will eventually cost me more to get the same access and services that I get now for a lower price. When there are fewer players and the new system of competition based Internet is based on collusion and agreements between those few players, I cannot see how competition will lower prices and provide better services. Those few providers of Internet access, wireless data access, and big media are already not reinvesting their hefty profits into infrastructure to provide a better online experience for Americans (unlike broadband providers in other parts of the world), so why would they decide to do that when they can charge us more in the future? There won’t be any other companies to compete with them–it will be nearly impossible for an upstart to move into the marketplace due to the heavy investments and the improbable chance that new competitors will be able to enter into new agreements with the big players that allow for the free flow of data across the different networks. Essentially, the ISPs want to build walls held together with “g(lue)reed” to enforce tolls on the transfer of data, and that isn’t a plan that is good for consumers.

That being said, the FCC’s use of “ancillary jurisdiction” to enforce net neutrality can be a double edged sword as Corynne McSherry points on in her commentary on EFF’s site here. The political enforcement of certain goals, such as the indecency issues that the George W. Bush administration pushed so heartily during his two terms as President, can be a real problem. However, I do not believe that government is a wholly bad entity that we cannot rely on. Corporations only operate to maximize profits and appease investors. Consumers do not in any practical way “vote with dollars.” We do vote for our government officials though, and we need to send a strong message to our representatives that they do work for us, and not for the businesses who want us to subject us to their maximization of profits. I didn’t vote for congressmen and senators with the hope that they would do things that would cost me more money by them enacting laws to help Internet providers with the next big money grab. Did you?