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.
According to the findings of an insightful report by DNS experts [here] and a feature article on Ars Technica:
Senator Ron Wyden D-OR has called the PROTECT IP Act “a threat to our economic future and to our international objectives.” He characterized its predecessor as a “bunker-busting cluster bomb when what you really need is a precision-guided missile.” The bill would force Domain Name System DNS operators to stop correctly resolving the names of so-called “rogues sites.”
Is this sort of monkeying with the DNS a problem? Yes, say DNS experts in a new report PDF on the practice. In their view, DNS filtering provisions would make the Web less secure—and do little to stop illegal filesharing sites.
via DNS filtering: absolutely the wrong way to defend copyrights.
Earlier today, the Protect-IP act left committee, but Senator Wyden was able to halt its progression before going to the floor of the Senate for a vote. He is correct that the language of Protect-IP would be a too broad approach to protecting intellectual property online. However, the enforcement of this bill should it become law would amount to censorship and still not prevent the kind of illegal distribution of intellectual property that it attempts to curtail.
I have commented on this law before here, and I still think that this is the kind of messy, power-crazy legislation that needs to be stopped dead in its tracks. I am all for the upholding of sensible copyright, but I am against Big Media’s attempts to short circuit the law in their favor.
We, meaning people, need to assert our rights to culture and our rights to freedom of speech online. The Protect-IP act could circumvent both of these things by assigning the decision making process of what constitutes a fair and legal voice outside the bounds of due process AND taking away our right to judge for ourselves what is fair and legal.
As the report linked above argues and Ars Technica discusses, the law’s effect on DNS filtering would be easily circumvented, but the fact is that we should not be making laws that further reduce online communication that would be need circumvention if the law is not equally or fairly applied. If this bill passes, circumvention itself could be further criminalized. Additional criminalization is the not the answer either. This could turn into a stepping stone in that direction if we do not demand that these attempts at death of citizens’ rights by a thousand cuts is not halted.
It has been covered in many places, but I would recommend that you steer your browser to Ars Technica to read about the new PROTECT-IP bill: Revised Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too. It is a new attempt by the culture industry’s elite (i.e., big money) to lower their overhead incurred by suing copyright offenders. It is also a salve to their wounded pride when they have repeatedly failed to effectively use existing law to censor the Internet and enforce media consumption of their wares.
PROTECT-IP is a broadly based law that will make US business interests liable for non-compliance with the censorship of online sites deemed to be infringers. This would mean credit card processsors would not be allowed to handle their transactions and online advertisers would be prohibited from advertising for or on those sites.
Perhaps more significantly, PROTECT-IP would effectively make Google an online censor, because the law would prohibit search engines from providing links to infringing sites. There would also be more troublesome interventions of the law that would block DNS entries for infringing sites. My trouble with this is what constitutes infringing? Even though this is narrowly defined in the proposed law, I know from our nation’s ongoing experiment with DMCA, these qualifications could be perverted to include sites that are targeted for other reasons (squashing discourse, preventing negative views, etc.).
I understand that copyright and trademark holders deserve their due. However, I strongly disagree with having a law like this one that circumvents the full application of law and enforcement via the courts. Let’s be clear about something regarding this law: Big media and Big trademark holders want this, because they believe that it will increase their profits in two ways: 1) it will force people to buy their official products (this is a contentiously debated argument that is dependent on more variables that the prevention of copyright violations), and 2) it lowers their cost of enforcement via the courts by placing them within the framework of enforcement and their actions can impel other businesses to act virtually on their behalf. This law is purposefully designed to empower big business at the cost of other big businesses and more importantly, the rights of individual citizens. We have recently seen how the DMCA can be used to silence discourse online (read here), so I can only imagine how this law might be perverted beyond its spirit of protecting business interests.
TechDirt also has a good summary of the law here.
Get involved by letting your congressional leaders that this isn’t good law, and support organizations that try to preserve individuals’ rights online such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge.