How SOPA/PIPA Could Strike Out the Internet.

newsflash strike

If SOPA/PIPA pass, images like this might be pervasive on the Internet.

Written by: Alexis Poole


Bill H.R. 3261 (SOPA) and Senate Bill 968 (PIPA) both aim to “protect intellectual property of content creators” and “create American jobs” by cracking down on Internet piracy. It actually reads like a horribly invasive bill that seeks to strike out Internet-based companies, put thousands of jobs in jeopardy and infringe upon the privacy of anyone who uses the Internet.

Provisions under SOPA would allow judges to order ISPs to block access to websites that infringe on copyright law. Now, that sounds good and even makes sense at face value until we investigate what it takes to block a website. That order to block a website also allows them to check IP addresses of customers who visit that website. This is called IP-blocking and is a highly invasive process that would monitor users’ web traffic. So from Google to Facebook to Twitter to other “questionable” sites we may visit, the government would watch and track it all, like some peeping tom peering into your house to watch you pee.

Now, replace that peeping tom with members of the military. That’s my guess as to who these purported American jobs will go to. SOPA claims that it will protect against copyright infringement by law enforcement. I’d bet that those enforcers would need security clearance in order to even be interviewed for a job that would include daily surveillance of people’s private information. I know I don’t have any such clearance and I’d be willing to bet that the majority of current job seekers don’t either. Politicians like to throw catch phrases like that on the first page of bills because they know it’s more likely to garner votes from members of the House and Senate seeking brownie points come re-election time. That way, they can subtly remind everyone that they voted FOR American jobs.

What IS it with the undying love of extra-long acronyms for the names of these bills? We already have the USA PATRIOT Act, otherwise known as Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism. Now there’s SOPA, which stands for Stop Online Piracy Act. Additionally, there’s PIPA, an acronym with a double meaning. It stands for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property. Read more commonly as “Protect IP Act,” the bill’s title seems to indicate that it will somehow protect IP addresses. These acronyms hide their bills’ true equal and opposite intentions. For example, the PATRIOT Act claimed that it would unite America when all it really did was tap our phone lines. SOPA and PIPA similarly propose to protect the rights of artists and maintain that the Internet won’t be affected but the bill reads like it’ll knowingly violate major privacy rights and cripple a booming Internet industry in one fell swoop.

Hypothetically, let’s say that SOPA/PIPA created 100,000 jobs…for the military, since they have the security clearance. That sounds great! At least that’s 100,000 jobs not going overseas, right? Sure, but think about the hundreds of American software companies, domain name system servers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers it would put out of work for even one small infringement. SOPA claims it wouldn’t attack entire DNS servers, just the subdomains that infringe on copyright law. They would do this by requiring DNS servers to stop linking requests for a webpage to the IP address requesting it. Domain Name System servers by design deal with request failures by finding other servers that can and will grant the original request’s wish, even if they have to go overseas to do it. Requiring servers to stop referring these requests to other servers directly affects the integrity of the DNS system as a whole. Since this hole in the proposal was pointed out, this and other DNS-related provisions have been removed from SOPA as of January 12, 2012. But SOPA/PIPA is a butt that just won’t quit.

Opposers of SOPA/PIPA are really concerned with the biggies: the First Amendment, privacy and legal liability for websites where users can upload illegal content. YouTube comes to mind. Let’s say I can’t understand the lyrics of a song. I go to YouTube, type in “lyrics to [popular song] by [popular artist]” and listen to a user-uploaded copy of the song and a cheesy Powerpoint-style presentation of the lyrics. With a room full of the military’s finest following me from webpage to webpage, they can hold me liable for accessing the copyrighted content, hold the original poster liable for uploading it and essentially sue YouTube for allowing it to be uploaded in the first place. Supporters of SOPA maintain that websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have nothing to fear, but why shouldn’t they when the responsibility for policing infringement falls on the website itself? No wonder businesses look overseas to invest where laws like this are more lax.

Many of those who oppose SOPA/PIPA also have signed petitions asking Google to leave the Chamber of Commerce like Yahoo has already done. So far, SOPA/PIPA have been tabled for more time to review and resolve these and other issues. Many more wants to see this bill eliminated than those who want it passed. Just mentioning SOPA and PIPA sends shivers down the spines of all who value privacy and freedom from censorship.

First SOPA, now ACTA?

Poland's parliament dons Guy Fawkes masks to protest ACTA

Poland's parliament dons Guy Fawkes masks to protest ACTA

Written by Elaine Zuo

Say you’re the owner of a thriving website that you’ve been working years to maintain. Your homepage displays a short video clip from a movie that you thought added punchy dialogue to your site’s message. Upon the passage of ACTA, your domain is completely taken down due to copyright infringement and your Internet connection is terminated. How could anyone allow this to happen?

The entire United States seemed to take up arms when the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that would strongly enforce copyright laws and restrict access to entire Internet domains, entered Congress in December 2011. After a widespread “blackout”  on January 18 of many popular websites, SOPA sponsors readily withdrew their support and the bill is now all but dead. What many Americans didn’t know was that President Obama had signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) a few months prior, on October 1, 2011.

ACTA is an international treaty aiming to stop copyright infringement and other forms of intellectual property theft through a legal framework that would promote cooperation among involved countries.

Many Europeans and increasing numbers of Americans are upset with this treaty for a variety of reasons, notably the process in which the treaty itself was signed. Neither the citizens of the signing countries were consulted nor was the entirety of the European Parliament involved with the negotiations, those of which were found to be conducted mostly in secret. Twenty-two out of 27 members of the European Union signed the agreement in Tokyo on January 26. This was met with marching in the streets of Poland, a French member of the European Parliament quitting, and the Polish parliament protesting with Guy Fawkes masks. Obama is under fire for signing the treaty without consulting the Senate.

Under the provisions of ACTA, copyright holders would be able to obtain personal information about people suspected of copyright infringement, take their property, and legally be allowed to pursue said suspects. The holders also can demand the market value of the “stolen” content. ACTA does not include any fair use provisions, unlike current U.S. copyright law or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and its status as an international treaty will supersede the laws of the U.S.

ACTA is not limited to the Internet and items such as generic drugs and food patents would become more difficult to obtain. Flying into different countries could criminalize someone if the drugs were still under patent in the specific country. Fortunately, quite a few emerging countries are opposed to such provisions. ACTA raises significant concerns for the freedom and privacy of citizens around the world and is rising quickly from the ashes of SOPA. Fight for your Internet freedom and speak out against ACTA.

Anonymous Shuts Down FBI Site Following Arrest of MegaUpload Founders

Written by: Alexandra Paskulin

In response to the Jan. 19 arrests of Megaupload founders in New Zealand, major US websites are shutdown by hacktivist group Anonymous in protest of anti-piracy laws. 

Following the mass protest of SOPA/PIPA legislation by prominent websites including Wikipedia, Google and Craigslist, the widely used file-sharing site Megaupload was shut down by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation. The founders of Megaupload (and associated sites Megavideo, Megapix, Megalive, Megabox and Megaporn), Kim Dotcom (aka Kim Schmitz), Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann of German citizenship and Bram van der Kolk of Dutch citizenship were arrested in Auckland by New Zealand authorities executing provisional arrest warrants by the US. A US Department of Justice statement, released on the same day as the arrests, declared the action against the “Mega conspiracy” to be “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the Unites States and directly targets the misuse of a public content storage and distribution site to commit and facilitate intellectual property crime.” The Megaupload site now bears the following notice informing visitors that Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann, van der Kolk and three others have been charged with criminal copyright infringement.

Kim Schmitz aka Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload

Kim Schmitz aka Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload

Following the federal seizure of Megaupload and arrest of its founders, several US government and major music and film industry websites went down. The affected sites include FBI, DOJ, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of American. Some of the broken sites were down for hours. Responsibility for the attacks was taken by hacktivist group Anonymous on their Twitter feed. In the early afternoon of January 2012, @YourAnonNews posted “The government takes down #Megaupload? 15 minutes later #Anonymous takes down government & record label sites. #ExpectUs.” Anonymous is a long-standing opponent of anti-piracy legislation and were active in opposing SOPA and PIPA earlier in the week. @YourAnonNews called the attacks on prominent government and industry sites “The Largest Attack Ever by Anonymous – 5,635 People Confirmed Using #LOIC to Bring Down Sites!”  The LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) is an open source application that allows multiple individuals to launch a distributed denial of service attack, flooding and crippling the targeted system.

The debate over anti-piracy legislation and Internet censorship is unlikely to end soon. Anonymous and other supporters of the free Internet will continue to face challenges from politicians and lobbyists who persist in threatening the freedom of information. Further attacks in protest of anti-piracy and censorship are imminent. As Anonymous operative Barrett Brown told, “more is coming”.

Hacktivist group Anonymous symbol, a Guy Fawkes mask and pirate swords

Hacktivist group Anonymous displays their symbol on their Twitter and Tumblr pages: a Guy Fawkes mask and pirate swords