248 Comments

Summary:

A new copyright bill proposed in the House would give governments and private corporations unprecedented powers to remove websites from the internet completely, on the flimsiest of grounds, and would also force internet service providers to play the role of copyright police or face penalties.

Many internet users in the United States have watched with horror as countries like France and Britain have proposed or instituted so-called “three strikes” laws, which cut off internet access to those accused of repeated acts of copyright infringement. Now the U.S. has its own version of this kind of law, and it is arguably much worse: the Stop Online Piracy Act, introduced in the House this week, would give governments and private corporations unprecedented powers to remove websites from the internet on the flimsiest of grounds, and would force internet service providers to play the role of copyright police.

To recap a bit of history, the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA is the House version of a previous bill proposed by the Senate, which was known as the PROTECT-IP Act (a name that was an abbreviation for “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property”). That in turn was a rewritten version of a previous proposed bill that was introduced in the Senate last year. Not wanting to be outdone by their Senate colleagues when it comes to really long acronyms, the House version is also known as the E-PARASITE Act, which is short for “Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation.”

Copyright holders win, free speech and an open Internet lose

What it really is, however, is a disaster for the internet. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in a post on the proposed legislation, the law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required. As Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said of the PROTECT-IP Act:

At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

In effect, the new law would route around many of the protections in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including the “safe harbor” provisions (a number of law professors have said that they believe the proposed legislation would be unconstitutional because it is a restraint on freedom of speech). The idea that ISPs and internet users can avoid penalties if they remove content once they have been notified that it is infringing, for example, wouldn’t apply under the new legislation — and anyone who provides tools that allow users to access blacklisted sites would also be subject to penalties.

In addition to using what some are calling the “internet death penalty” of removing infringing websites from the DNS system so they can’t be found, the proposed bill would also allow copyright holders to push for websites and services to be removed from search engine results and to have their supply of advertising cut off — and would require that payment companies like PayPal and ad networks comply with these orders. If you liked what PayPal and others did when they shut off donations to WikiLeaks, you’re going to love the new Stop Online Piracy Act.

Creating a firewall around the internet, just like China

According to Techdirt, which has been a vocal critic of the bill and its predecessors, the new legislation would create a “Great Firewall of America,” similar to the firewall that the Chinese government uses to keep its citizens from accessing certain websites and servers that it deems to be illegal. Techdirt’s Mike Masnick notes that the new bill actually expands the range of websites that could be targeted by the bill: the previous version referred to sites that were “dedicated to infringing activities” with no other obvious purpose, but the new law would allow the government to target any site that has “only limited purpose or use” other than infringement (by the government’s definition).

The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option, and innocent websites would have to fight to prove that they deserved to be restored to the internet — a reversal of the traditional American judicial approach of being assumed innocent until proven guilty — at which point any business they had would be destroyed.

That might make for the kind of internet that media and entertainment conglomerates would prefer, but it would clearly be a much diminished version of the internet we take for granted. Opponents of the bill have set up a website to try and convince voters to reject the legislation and tell their congressman not to support it. Embedded below is an interview that Senator Wyden did at the recent Web 2.0 Summit about his views on the PROTECT-IP Act and why it needs to be stopped:

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr users Stefan and Kevin Dooley

  1. The only things more ridiculous than these laws are the God-awful acronyms…

    “You don’t want to support e-parasites, do you Senator? Take our word for it. Sign here.”

    Share
  2. This just made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

    Share
    1. Ryan Portsmouth Friday, October 28, 2011

      You got off easy, my heart just cut a hole in my chest and jumped out screaming!

      Share
    2. Charles Arnold Friday, October 28, 2011

      Shayn, what in the world ever gave you the idea that it is perfectly acceptable to steal someone’s else’s work, research and time?

      Share
      1. Charles, what in the world ever gave you the idea that this issue is as simple as that?

        Share
      2. no one person should hide their light… as longa ss you are credited it should be shared… if I sign my name to it THAT’S a problem! Most people are concerned with censorship not getting credit for sharing information or exprssing opinion. What happened to free speech in the US of A? I thank my luck in never moving there! We are so much better off in Canada: human rights and reccession as well as open access to what really happens news wise…

        Share
      3. Charles, you really don’t comprehend this legislation at all, do you?

        Did you even bother to read the article?

        Share
      4. Charles: this law is a double edged knife. The one side being seen and commented on is the posting of unlawful content(aka Movie Rips, Game ROM’s, etc.). This I can see but this is not the way to do it. The side not reflected on is that towards users who want to show off their achievements in games, and even make videos from them. Let’s Plays, User Made Music Video’s, and even user made Trailers for Movies & Games are affected by this law as they contain copyrighted material. These are the people that are getting screwed over for freedom of speech as this is what they have to say. This will affect how the Internet runs beyond what they say they, but ultimately turn things into two sides. There will be to good, ordered, boring side of the web that is without creativity as ideas can not be free if the means to convey them are limited. Then the dark side, with all its illegal black market movies, music, and games will be harsh environment as when things escalate, they will start nailing the users of such content to the unfair law for trying to be free of mind.

        Share
      5. thats not what shes saying, this act will give the govt and corporate elites power to completely control what goes thru the internet.

        Share
      6. You’re so laughably ignorant I don’t know why people have bothered respond to you.

        Share
      7. David WhiteDevil Alsberge Monday, October 31, 2011

        Seriously, do you want anyone else telling you what website you may or may not visit, or even to make that website invisible to you. That’s like having someone decide you’re no longer allowed to see your neighbors house. Why would ANYONE give someone else that right. That’s the same as censorship.

        Share
      8. Charles, what is it exactly that you oppose about freedom of speech?

        Share
      9. you must want a dictator

        Share
      10. Charles, what in the world ever gave you the idea that copyright holders deserve a parallel justice system where the normal rules of guilt and innocence do not apply?

        This legislation is a recipe for DNS fragmentation and dark nets which are going to make the problem much worse.

        Share
    3. I think that’s hot.

      Share
    4. Random Disclaimer Monday, October 31, 2011

      You could throw up on me….

      Share
  3. Since the House version is even worse than the Senate one, I guess we can assume the House is more bought/corrupt than the Senate?

    Share
    1. Unfortunately the government understands all too well the power of the internet as well as their ultimate powerlessness to control it. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of any true democracy. As we as a country continue to slip toward government control of everything we hold dear, those in control of information access essentially are in a position to ultimately control how people think and act. The death of the internet is essential to their long term plans.

      Share
      1. Very well stated….and I agree!

        Share
      2. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, freedom to steal others work is not.This is not a free speech issue. This bill has no provision to inhibit free speech. I HAVE read the bill carefully, you do the same and then quote me the exact references that inhibit free speech. I wait patiently………..

        Share
      3. Agreed. So what do we do about it? I say change congress by voting agains the incumbent senator and representative in the next several election cycles.

        Share
      4. George Orwell said it all. Meanwhile, while we were obsessing with the government becoming big brother, we didn’t even see the corporations assuming the role.

        Share
      5. GB, don’t forget to vote out the top incumbent in 2012 – President 0bama.

        Share
      6. vesey, this means that any site can be shut down with a specious claim of infringement, thereby censoring speech and the flow of information.

        Share
    2. It’s more Republican… but, same thing, yeah.

      Share
  4. Why are we so protective? Putting up walls instead of bringing people together. More proof that the government does not get internet culture. The internet is greater than any national boarder or institution. If anything we must actively try to separate the two.

    http://www.whoisdanfonseca.com

    Share
    1. Charles Arnold Friday, October 28, 2011

      Dan, how would you feel if I snuck into your home and stole your computer, your sound system and a few other things. After all, don’t I deserve to have what you worked to get? If you think that this is a bad idea try changing places with the various authors, writers, poets and artists who have had their work ripped off.

      Charles Arnold

      Share
      1. Any artists who’s work should be valued in any way will far more likely side with free speech than profits.

        I’m so tired of hearing about the artists who are suffering because of copyright infringement. They’re suffering because of the contracts they signed with their greedy parasite major labels. Very little profits from record sales goes to the artist. They make their money by touring, selling merch, and selling use for advertising.

        Also the terms are so broad in this bill any website could be taken down.

        Do some research because your comment is stupid.

        Share
      2. Daniel Robbins Friday, October 28, 2011

        Charles, though this was directed at a different person, I feel obliged to reply. How would I feel? Bad. How would you feel if you started a company, and then the government came in and blocked off access to the building without warning? This is essentially the power that the government will have if this bill passes. Sure, they will be able to protect the work of authors, writers, poets, and artists on the internet, but they will also be able to shut down entire websites and businesses according to their own vague criteria. This is unconstitutional because it is doing so without proper due process in a judicial court of law. These businesses will be guilty until proven innocent. These businesses will have their freedom of speech and freedom of expression taken away, which is something I am sure writers/artists would not appreciate. What if the government claimed that a writer’s hard work appeared too similar to another’s work? That writer could have his hard work instantly destroyed, if his work is only stored on his personal weblog. The list of problems goes on and on…
        -Daniel

        Share
      3. Also remember that theft of something physical etc is criminal law, while copyright violations is civil/contract law in general (ie. breaking an agreement). Nothing in digital form has an actual tangible value as it is purely information, hence the ease by which the legal processes get blurred

        Share
      4. Michael Yunkin Friday, October 28, 2011

        This ridiculous argument ignores Fair Use, which has slowly been eroded thanks to politicians who make laws that either a) they don’t understand; or b) they’ve been paid to act contrary to the express intention of the Constitutional basis for IP law.

        Aside from the problem of penalizing people who may or may not have even done anything (surely you’ve seen the hundreds of stories about little old ladies who’ve never even HEARD of bittorrent being targeted by file sharing lawsuits), there’s the obvious problem of outright abuse. Imagine this scenario:
        Anonymous decides that Charles Arnold is a moron. So they get his IP address and send a flurry of takedown notices to Mr. Arnold’s internet provider, who is then obliged to cut off his internet under the 3-strikes law.

        This is what you’re arguing for, genius. There’s a reason legal action requires government review and involvement.

        This has nothing to do with people stealing — anyone who wants to do that can easily just share files through a secure proxy.

        Share
      5. Derrick Harris Friday, October 28, 2011

        I have to agree w/ Michael Yunkin (but I distance myself from any personal attacks). Unless those court orders are issued only after some sort of legal proceedings where both sides present evidence, we run the risk of shutting down sites and censoring search engines based on allegations.

        I think this is a problem with the DMCA, too. I complain, and a service provider must remove content or risk legal action. But copyright claims aren’t always cut and dry, especially with the presence of defenses such as fair use.

        Share
      6. As an artist/writer I’d be outraged that my work was stolen.

        But that’s not the issue here. I suggest, Charles, you get acquainted with the actual subject before making a fool of yourself.

        Share
      7. Charles, we know where you are going with this, but your argument is straight out of 1998. What we need to do is come up with a scenario that allows profitable sharing. The article is pointing out a system that will sabotage many new-age marketing efforts. While I appreciate your motives against sharing, take a look at what is going on in countries where iterations of these rules have already come into play.

        Share
      8. Everytime someone prevents me ripping my DVD and putting it on my webserver, its like the MPAA has walked into my house, stolen my disks, and computer. This law will be grand theft of everyone in America and prevent us from coming out of recession.

        Share
      9. I love how mr Charles Arnold here attacks anyone who may disagree with this bill on some random mindless quote about people being stolen from and never once mentions or defends the fact of what this bill will cause. People need their money protected, as if they aren’t still making more than enough to live Luxuriously, that may be true but this is not the way to do it. He is either a raving moron supporter or more likely someone who has major stakes in the hollywood industry

        Share
      10. Charles Arnold is clearly mentally deficient, please don’t feed the troll.

        Share
      11. Let’s assume you’re a car dealer. What if I stole a car from your lot in the middle of the night, and when you opened shop in the morning it was still there? No, I didn’t return it, I took a copy of it. You still have a car, and now I have one too.

        If everyone had what they wanted/needed, it would seem we have reached a more idealized society. The reason it doesn’t is that you didn’t make money on that car. Without copying it, I would have never bought a car from you anyway, but because I copied it from you, you assume I stole your profits.

        Share
      12. Peter Hawkins Monday, October 31, 2011

        poets?

        Share
      13. @Miles: That argument is a little flawed. Technically, it is lost profits, because that car dealer spent money to obtain that vehicle. You’re basically getting that car at the expense of the car dealer, which, if he/she didn’t spend money on it to begin with, then you’d have nothing to copy.

        As for the overall issue – I think we all want to see artists benefit from their works and continue to do their trades, but we don’t like the corporations that they sign up with, which lead to bills like this where little thought is put into it. It’s funny because the internet allows the artist to sell themselves without any sort of label or gallery or what not now, so why do they keep going with along with them?

        This bill is more for the retention of those companies, not the artists. You don’t need those companies to be successful now, and I think that’s what they really fear.

        Share
      14. Charles…I really hope you’re a troll

        Share
      15. If you snuck into my house made a copy of everything and left, I’d be fine with that. You have to look at how other governments have been abusing their similiar laws to understand what is really going on here.

        Share
      16. Easy guys. Love all the comments but somehow I feel as though we are getting a little hostile. Yikes!

        That being said, I simply do not feel comfortable with the idea that the internet and the ISPs are rooted in ANY national government. In true technology character, the internet is moving power all over the place. The ones in power, national governments, are simply trying to hold on it even if they are doing so poorly. That is why I’d like to see more separation between the two. The question then arises, if my own thoughts make sense, who will watch over the internet? Who will have the power? The people? Just one perspective and idea here…

        A note of scientific research, it should be public by default.

        http://www.whoisdanfonseca.com

        Share
      17. Charles, how would you feel if you were banned from accessing the internet because you downloaded a copyrighted picture?

        Share
      18. Heather Ferreira Tuesday, November 1, 2011

        As a produced motion picture director and screenwriter, allow me assure you that if your writing examples seen here are in any way reflective of your actual skills in crafting literature, you are in no copyright infringement danger whatsoever.

        Share
      19. Stephen Triebl Monday, November 7, 2011

        Charles, what youre talking about goes back to the napster era of internet enforcement. I can understand the theft of other peoples work. We are talking about The internet and its core meaning. The internet’s main purpose in today’s world is to bring people together and share thoughts and ideas. This bill is guided by people who probably do not use the internet like their younger generation. In a nut shell, this bill will close down fan sites expressing their interests, original user based material that inadvertently contains copyrighted material. I meana baby video was pulled off youtube because some song was playing in the background. This bill will give the government power comparable to giving the keys of a 747 to a 5 year old. They just have no idea what it is they are dealing with let alone what powers would be regrettably be given to them.

        Share
  5. So much for free market. What’s more free market than the internet?

    Share
  6. Shayn Baron is HOTTTTTTTT!

    Share
  7. Rule #1: Never vote for Republicans.
    Rule #2: See rule #1.
    Look you elected all these crazies to congress, you can fire them. This is just another ridiculous bill from a virulent anti-intellectual, anti-democratic (small d), anti-constitution, anti-bill-of-rights, right wing. Don’t let them silence you. Don’t let them take away your right to vote. Vote them out now, while we still have a chance.
    Again — see rule #1

    Share
    1. The wholesale assault against the Bill of Rights comes from the left, not the right.

      Share
      1. Love how people are so ignorant, with how they vote. You want change well guess what? Our change is coming in the form of Socialism. Thank you Left wingers for making our Founding Fathers spin in theire graves. I myself prefer less government. Can’t imagine why anyone could support this, then try to blame the Conservative Party.

        Share
      2. Incorrect, Lynn (and Melissa). This isn’t socialism at work, it’s fascism– work of the far right.

        And the founders leaned left themselves. They would have been right at home with Occupy Wall Street.

        Share
      3. Texrat, you are woefully ignorant of basic political ideology, like most of the Useful Idiots of the Left. There are only two sides to politics – Government, and No Government. Authoritarianism, and Libertarianism. Left, and Right.

        The single overarching goal of the Left is to expand government, and thereby the authority it has over people. They hide it behind language like “fairness” and “equality” and “redistribution”. But there is only one way to enforce any of these ideals – through the power of government. And in order to empower government, you must expand its authority and reach. Every time the Government increases its power, the People lose more of their liberty. Go back and reread history now understanding this, and you will see exactly why Socialists (be they Soviet Socialists or National Socialists) are firmly planted on the left.

        Share
    2. Marco Massenzio Thursday, October 27, 2011

      er… you perhaps may have not noticed, but there is a …wait for it… Democrat president – and the Senate… drumroll… yup: is controlled by Democrats.

      If anything, the left (of any shape and form – from the Soviets, to the Chinese, to the European Communist parties) have always the ones pushing harder against freedom of speech and thought – but then again, sir, expecting you to be able to read and understand history and politics, is asking too much of your intellect.

      Share
      1. @Marco & Lynn…It doesn’t matter who’s in control of what. All politicians get up in front of the public and push their political hot buttons, then offer up vague promises to assuage their fears in order to get elected. Once their in Congress, they just collect their bribes from whatever special interest group or lobby, and enact legislation that usually makes things worse, not better. Right or Left, it doesn’t matter. Middle America gets screwed, and they retire fat dumb and happy. The only way anything changes if one party has a super majority push their fringe agenda down our throats. Real world compromise doesn’t exist, and the treat of filibuster looms over every piece of legislation. Right or Left, it doesn’t matter. So, why don’t we all stop pointing fingers at the other side, and instead demand the same type of flawlessness from our own political party that we demand from the other side.

        Share
      2. Also incorrect Marco. In general, the Left pushes for freedom, the Right clamps down on it. Progressive vs Conservative.

        Communist leaders tend to wear leftist “clothing”, but that’s as far as it goes. In reality they corrupt leftward ideals by combining them with fascism.

        How ironic that you insult others for allegedly failing to comprehend history, while spouting nonsense propaganda crafted by neocon spinmeisters. Is intellectual honesty “asking too much of your intellect”?

        Share
    3. The bill was sponsored by two liberal Democrats and two moderately stupid Republicans. You actually appear to be more virulent and anti-intellectual. But I also oppose all aggregations of Federal power – which has expanded exponentially with a liberal president.

      Share
      1. Granted that Obama has continued the same sort of heavy-handedness and Federal expansion that Bush enjoyed, but saying that Federal powers have expanded *exponentially* is hyperbolic. It’s been linear– increasing too much IMO (and overdue for a significant decrease), but linear nonetheless.

        Share
    4. See, the problem with this statement is the belief that there is essentially a defining difference between Democrat and Republican. There isn’t.

      Electing ANY public official is like gambling. They’re all for sale, and the question isn’t whether they’re corrupt and self-serving; it’s HOW corrupt and self-serving they are.

      Share
    5. American Voter Friday, October 28, 2011

      Rule #3 make sure you know your facts before vilifying the someone/Republicans. The bill is being brought forth by both parties idiot – The new House bill is sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21], and co-sponsored by the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. John Conyers [D, MI-14], and a hearing is already scheduled for November 16. Expect this to be given priority rush treatment – as was the Senate bill (note the “D” and “R” next to their state is what party, not the “Rep” which stands for “Representative” – as in House of Representatives! Demagoguery is so transparent and preys upon uninformed folks like yourself.
      P.S. – I am not a Republican either rather an informed Independent voter.

      Share
    6. Back @ you – “Look you elected all these crazies to congress, you can fire them.”

      This is the same lame line that’s used everytime either party introduces some dumb a$$ bill. Look, the truth is all politicians are completely worthless. They are power mongers who have no productive talents so they all coherse in making sure the rest of the country follows their rules. It’s asinine! To hell with all of ‘em.

      I wanted to be sure I said that before someone else copyrights it.

      Share
      1. Bret Mattingly II Tuesday, November 1, 2011

        Amen.

        Share
    7. Ok, Republicans? Really? If Democrats want bigger Government and ulimately socialism, who do you think controls how you think and how to use the Internet then?

      Share
    8. You need to start thinking for yourself instead of letting the dumb liberals do it for you. Liberals are running this country and we’ve never been worse off, especially with unemployment at record highs. If it weren’t for the right wing not only would we all be speaking russian or german, but the slaves would have never been freed. Go ask how the Canadians like giving half their paychecks to the government, or how they like being turned down at the emergency room.

      Share
      1. Incorrect. Liberals have been too chickenshit for years to run anything. The rank opportunists are in charge, and their agenda transcends the labels we have traditionally applied.

        Share
      2. We Canadians like paying taxes just fine. Sure, we grumble about it, but by and large we understand that shared sacrifice helps us maintain our social democratic state. We rather enjoy having the same high standard of living found in all those other socialist hotbeds you’ve probably only heard about but never visited like, say, Scandinavia.

        Coincidentally, we also enjoy worry-free access to medical care. You might be asked to wait when you arrive, but that’s only because someone in worse shape needs more urgent care. Part of that whole “social fabric” business, you see.

        Good luck with your wars, corruption, and unbridled free market capitalism. Believe it or not there are plenty of us foreigners rooting for you folks.

        Share
      3. I’m a Canadian, and i’ve never heard of anyone being turned away from an emergency room, and the amount of money from my paycheck that goes to the government is negligible – and much of it goes to employment insurance and the canadian pension plan. which i am happy to pay into. if we have a higher income tax rate, it’s because our health care system is free, and was recently voted by canadians as the thing they are most proud of about our country.

        point being, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Share
    9. Hate to generalize but 999/1000 times this kinda stuff is introduced by Republicans.

      Share
      1. Democrat’s ideals are worse. It’s just that all of the crazies and retards decide to side with Republican ideals, where they don’t belong at all because they don’t think for themselves.

        Share
    10. I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, the only person who can and will stop this legislation is Ron Paul. Otherwise, both the Dems and Repubs are bought and paid for. I just swallowed my pride and registered Republican so that I could vote for Dr. Paul in my state primaries.

      Share
    11. Your rule #1 is flawed.

      Share
    12. That’s weird, this bill is sponsored by left-wing Democrats… if it ever makes it to 0bama’s desk, I wonder if he’ll sign it… Hmmmm. 0bama will run off to Hollywood for another fundraiser to figure out which way to go…

      Share
      1. James, you are woefully ignorant of politics.
        Left and Right define economic policies (Socialist= Left, Capitalist= Right), but there is another element- Authoritarian v Libertarian. (Stalin represented Left/Authoritarian, Hitler Right/Authoritarian). This is something the knee-jerk Right still doesn’t get: just because it’s anti- Liberal doesn’t mean it’s pro-democracy Libertarian.

        I do understand this is just too complex for the one-dimensional thinking of the Tea Party “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare” mindset.

        Share
  8. EPARSITE; ‘against’ is a preposition.

    Share
  9. YES SHE IS…

    Share
  10. Good luck enforcing this!

    Share
    1. The government doesn’t need “luck” – they have power.

      Share
    2. Who is up for setting up and internet petition? We will see how many people feel that the government is speaking on their behalf in this case. I do not see this in the same spirit the constitution was written, Do you?

      Share
      1. Charles Arnold Friday, October 28, 2011

        Then, Joe, you have no concept of how our Founding Fathers thought.

        Share
      2. Just start the petition. The work will take care of itself after that. It’s time for a revolution!

        Share
    3. Brent Hinckley Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      They don’t need to be effective, all they need to do is fail to justify more funding. Ultimately this is a jobs bill at the expense of freedom, a mortgaged future, and further ‘justified’ state theft.

      Share

Comments have been disabled for this post