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.

Four More Years of the Patriot Act Nearly a Reality, On Way to President

Again eschewing fundamental rights to privacy in favor of “security,” the US Senate passed an extension to the Patriot Act that if passed by the House (likely, actually it passed earlier this evening according to the LA Times here) and signed by President Obama (likely) will extend and broaden the US government’s capacity to surveil suspected terrorists as well as now so-called “lone wolf” suspects who are not affiliated with a terrorism group.

I have briefly written about the Patriot Act before in a review of Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth’s “Critical Mass” here. I have always believed that the Patriot Act was an unnecessary piece of legislation that once passed would be difficult if not impossible to step away from. It grants the government considerable leeway in the way that they obtain legal authority to surveil suspected terrorists.

My concern is that how might the government now or in the future interpret what constitutes a terrorist. Like in the British science fiction television show Blake’s 7, a overly powerful government can apply the rule of law in creative and potentially fraudulent ways in order to silent critics. I hope that the Patriot Act or future US laws are ever perverted in this way, but if citizens are truly concerned about their rights and the application of law, we should decide as a people to not pass legislation that could be warped in a dangerous way by government officials with a headful of power.

Read more about the passage and debate on Bloomburg’s website here: Senate Approves Four-Year Extension of USA Patriot Act’s Wiretap Authority – Bloomberg.

Mike Rowe Senate Testimony, Some Ideas for Building a Strong America and an Ecology of Jobs

Mike Rowe, creator, executive producer, and host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, gave testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on May 11, 2011. I like Mr. Rowe and his show. He goes places and does things that most of us might not want to do. He also goes places and does things that most of us might not even have imagined! Furthermore, he does things on his show with men and women with unique and necessary skill sets that American society in general puts down or disregards. As Mr. Rowe outlines in his testimony before the Senate committee, we are placing our country at a disadvantage by promoting some kinds of training (i.e., university education) over others (i.e., vocational and trade skills). Furthermore, we owe it to those people who make our modern technologically driven world possible to recognize what they do, make an effort at understanding what they do, and support the furthering development of those lines of work in order to further develop our country. Dreams are not small when someone chooses a trade or skill that will provide them a happy and healthy life. However, our society seems to promote the idea that skilled and unskilled labor are small dreams. This is an artificial diminishing of the reality of what our country needs and how those needs can be met by people who need to have a productive life. To put it another way, America, like any forward thinking country, needs a robust ecology of workers and jobs to support growth, development, and enrichment. Growth and development have to do with growing what our country is capable of as well as the continuing development of our infrastructure to support a growing population. What I mean by enrichment is the enrichment of American citizens’ lives. This can be accomplished through a variety of vectors, but I think one of the most fulfilling is the self-satisfication derived from doing good work that one is proud to own and that supports a robust life. McDonald’s recent 62,000 job additions may help the recently unemployed who need to pay the bills, but the further development of part-time, minimum wage service economy jobs will not help America in the longterm. Certainly, some folks may like and thoroughly enjoy having a lifelong career at a service-type job and there is surely nothing wrong with that. However, these cannot be the only kinds of jobs available for folks. Those jobs do not build jet engines. Those jobs do not build bridges. Those jobs do not build houses. Like I said before, a robust ecology of jobs will take American into the future, but it will require a shift in opinions of the American people as well as the foresight of entrepreneurs to support the training and hiring of people who realize that they can find their way in life without or in conjunction with some university education. Much more needs to be done to make these things possible. The federal and state governments need to commit to these realities and provide funding to help make it happen for people. Something that I believe comes up again and again in other contexts is the reevaluation of contemporary high school education. As it now stands, high school education is geared towards evaluation and testing. If we do not put back an emphasis on independent reasoning and a broad approach to instruction rather than the narrow tunnel vision of test preparation, then we will have already lost any possibility of putting into effect the things that we need to do for a continuing and strong nation.