One of the problems with freedom is that there are always those who abuse, cheat and steal when given the freedom to do so. The Internet is not unique in this and that kind of criminal behavior is deplorable and ought to be sanctioned. One obvious example is the appropriation of Intellectual property.
The existing laws make those who steal intellectual property subject to sanctions.
But like every other crime, from folks breaking into cars and shoplifting to robbery, there are those who break the law.
Still we're not allowed to act like vigilantes and blow up whole houses of those who pilfer a stick of gum from the grocery store.
The so-called PROTECT IP act, a Senate bill designed to curtail such illegal actions on the Internet, is in the process of becoming law despite the fact that it turns those who claim Intellectual Property rights (really whether they have them or not) into vigilantes with the power to literally blacklist websites into oblivion for so much as a single violation.
The powers granted to those basically corporate intellectual property owners includes the ability to have, on an allegation alone, to have servers turned off, domains blacklisted (made unavailable) and have their accounts on paypal or credit card services frozen literally on the basis of their unchallenged assertion.
Those supporting this new legislation suggest that it would only be used against the baddies out there but the law is written in such broad language and grants such broad powers to corporate legal staff's as to make these kinds of assurance less than convincing.
Let me tell you a bit about intellectual property. A logo is intellectual property. A trademark including a phrase like "where is the beef" is intellectual property. A news story is Intellectual property as is a song as might appear in a youtube. One example is that with the extension of the copyright to 75 years after the death of the author on works created after 1917 or so makes the rendition of a video of a family singing 'happy birthday to you' to a one-year old toddler on video tape and sung by the well wishers an 'infringement.'
The law is loose and vague in the way it is written. A single violation of anyone's Intellectual Property (IP) - a single post on a forum like Pcom's - can allow an institution with IP rights to invoke the full civil and criminal (up to five years in prison) penalties of the law.
Placing the power to police this vague law in the hands of IP owners and presumably licensees, creates for anyone allowing users and members to place things on the NET the possibility they could be shut down for the act(s) of someone who casually places content on the site. Worse still is the opportunity to entrap a site like pcom with dirty tricks. Shut me down and I'm out of business even if I find out later it was a dirty trick. Oh, and the law includes language that protects the entity claiming infringement by giving them immunity from civil recourse if 'a mistake is made.'
Bottom line, if this law passes and someone has licensed the right to play the happy birthday song on their site - say yahoo or AOL - and a member here posts that 'infringing video' of their child's first birthday on PCOM, AOL could literally seek to black list Paulding.com. And, since AOL is in New York, that effort would give me five days to respond to the shutdown notice in a federal court in New York or close.
Seems so ridiculous that it couldn't happen, doesn't it.
Folks may have forgotten the defamation suit filed against a local attorney who copied a law journal article on Paulding.com and so became one of 88 folks nation-wide to be named in a lawsuit in New York based on that single filing. The local attorney chose to set the offending article invisible in order to comply with retraction demand in the filing and avoid litigation. (The article noted how stupid a new law grad was in another case and of course that litigation ultimately went nowhere... but under the terms of this PROPOSED LAW, had intellectual property been involved, the folks at netdepot (where we have our servers) would have had no choice but to shut us down if we didn't answer and challenge their directive in the New York court.
The point is that kind of unintended consequence is what makes this EXCEEDINGLY BAD LAW!
To quote Devin Dewey on the techcrunch blog
PROTECT IP is a lunatic proposal, penned by a dinosauric industry concerned solely with the preservation of its own profits. It will do nothing to curb piracy while at the same time eroding fundamental freedoms of the internet.
The only people who can possibly be in favor of this bill are either ignorant of its implications or stand to gain by its passage. This desperate power grab by a diminishing elite fails to even comprehend the problems it aims to solve, and its blunt force methods are wide open for abuse, and very possibly unconstitutional. Make no mistake about it: this is a kill switch, and if it’s passed, it will revisit us for years to come in ways we never suspected possible. If you think that’s an overstatement, think about it again next time you’re posing naked for the TSA, and ask yourself how that came about.
The full text of the Senate and House versions of the bill can be read here and here, respectively. Can it be fixed? No. The problems it attempts to address are simply not going to be solved by any approach suggested in this bill. Activist groups, law professors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and many more have already spoken out.Contact your Senator and Representative and urge them to reject S.968.
A blacklist for sites, whatever the intention, is simply an idea that has no place in a free society. This is inarguable. It is censorship, plain and simple, and it is exactly as audacious as banned book lists and other more recent forms of moral, political, and ideological bootheeling. It sounds inflammatory, but this bill is a wedge to be driven over time. Permitting this blacklist would be surrendering an important guarantee of the internet, and opening the door to worse. The slippery slope argument doesn’t always hold up, but with the parties involved, there is precedent in abundance for excess and abuse. And the law is not structured to prevent such abuse.
If it is this stupid a bill, how can Congress even consider passing it?
Well, lobbyists - the same lobbyists who convinced lawmakers in the last 30 years to extend copyright protection from 17 years to potentially 130 or more years (called the Disney law because it was passed just in time to keep Mickey Mouse from falling into the public domain) have the stroke, money, power and influence to pass bad laws that benefit them and their special interests.
They are able to do that because they provide big bucks to fuel the money machines needed to get folks re-elected time and time again. And make no mistake, it is expensive to run a re-election campaign for the US Senate and folks like Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss are all ears when they know (and can expect) campaign contributions from media companies, Hollywood and the music recording industry for making laws that will give them a 'cheap way' to screw those who pilfer their movies, videos and songs.
Now I'm no more in favor of people stealing intellectual property than those in those industries are but there is a right way and wrong way to do anything and this proposed law is just the wrong way.
First is vimeo video explaining this issue from fightforthefuture.org/pipa
http://americancensorship.org/ is another key resource.
Please do email Senators Isakson and Chambliss your opposition for this BAD BILL. (these links go to their offical senate.gov pages where they seek email.
You can also call Sen. Chambliss' office toll free at 1-800-234-4208 to express your concern. You can call Isakson's local Atlanta office at (770) 661-0999 or his Washington office at (202) 224-3643. You'll probably talk to an aid or secretary.
Ask them to withdraw their sponsorship of PIPA (S.968)
PS: This is also not a political topic. Many of the major sponsors of this abomination are Democrats in both the House (the companion bill in the house is HR 3261) as Hollywood (MPAA) and RIAA (music industry) are among the sponsors.
PPS: Here is a quote from yet another website I found enlightening:
It’s important to note that the actual bill stipulates the streaming be for commercial purposes because that’s where the vague side of their equation comes into play. While they always mean to be going after the bad guys, the language of these bills always leaves it open such that it could be applied to any (enormous) number of innocent cases.
In response to S.978, Fight for the Future has taken the most obvious (and seemingly) innocent case in the book. They started the Free Bieber campaign to point out how American’s young singing sensation got his start by streaming his own renditions of popular music on YouTube and therefore would be guilty. And though his lawyers aren’t too happy about the campaign, the Bieber himself has chimed in, suggesting that the sponsor of this bill, Sen. Amy Klobucher (D-MN), be “locked up”. Meanwhile, Demand Progress has a petition for you to sign if you think a five year sentence might be a little too much. While it would be nice to think the federal government has better things to do, their record says they do not.
Sadly that was just the appetizer of this story. Now we get to the real mouthfuls. S.968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT-IP) and the crazier House version, H.R. 3261, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), lay out an incredible expansion of power enabling the government and private parties to effectively create a blacklist of websites found to offend the very broad language used to qualify an infraction.
Basically a few industry hack/lobbyists wrote the law to give them the power to control the net. I don't trust them and you shouldn't either. Our Senators probably don't care; they need the campaign funds that follow from sponsoring a bill to aid the industry and have been told how good it is. It is up to us to tell them how wrong the self-interested hacks are. There is a right way and wrong way to do anything and this bill is just the wrong way.