We’ve Shelved SOPA/PIPA, Now Can We Stop Other Crappy Legislation?

 

Written by: Kaitlyn Burkhart

After a short and heroic uprising of the Internet community, it seems as if the people have won the battle against censorship of the Internet. On Friday January 20, Congress dropped the bills in the wake of the largest online protest in history. A staggering 13 million people took the time to add their names to the petition, alongside a voluntary blackout held by thousands of websites (including Wikipedia, the sixth most-visited site in the world),  in order to keep the Web free of censorship and out of the hands of the government and big business. The swift building of this movement, and it’s direct impact that hit the government straight in the legislature, has possibly been the most successful (if not the only, disregarding the rather ill-organized Occupy Wall Street) display of democratic power from the people in the recent past, with comparisons to the Arab Spring Movement, and our forefathers’ Boston Tea Party.

With the Internets’ uprising being hailed as a great success, it seems to be that maybe this movement of power from the people will shine the light on us as citizens, and how we’ve sat idly by as unfair, unconstitutional, and extraordinarily-out-of-touch-with-citizens’-lives legislature has been passed without even a whimper. Until, that is, they tried to take our Internet. Is this what Democracy has come to in the US? They can cut taxes for the rich, monopolize the elected government official positions to weed out any person who can’t spend millions on a campaign, slash spending on our education systems yet boost Congress’ payrolls, and most recently pass a bill that gives you no rights under the Bill of Rights if the military thinks you’re a terrorist.

Was it not so much that we were fighting for Freedom of Speech, or was it that the Internet the last free thing we had?

Remember this?

 

Many social commentators have been speaking out on the apathetic nature of Americans today, noting that if most of the things we let slide today happened 50 years ago, the people would have been pulling up the roots of the administration, making noise in the streets, and children would be writing letters to state representatives in their classrooms. What happen to the America where people were actively fighting for their rights? Where if people saw something that was wrong, and actually thought they could change it?

 

Let me ask you a question; When was the last time you watched, read, or discussed the people running for the positions in Congress or the spots in the next Presidential election? Were your thoughts afterward about the policies those people were promoting, or were you merely dissatisfied with how the entire thing seemed to be about how clueless our political leaders were, or how the debates had seemingly become pissing contests between GOP members, where one person commented on how much money the other person had made, how many wives they had, or why Obama is a socialist and needs to be stopped?

Seriously? Watching a debate nowadays is like watching an episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Same amount of cat fights, less fabulously dressed.

And somehow equally trashy.

With so many people displeased with the happenings in the government, it’s amazing that it took them threatening our Internet for something to happen. The people won have won a battle, maybe that will be the thing to stoke the proverbial fire under our chairs to win the war. Or, at least, do something to put the power back in our hands.

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.

Pending anti-piracy bills stir debate and protests

Written by: Shauna Bannan

Protesters holding signs to oppose SOPA and PIPA

Protesters fled to the streets of Manhattan to show their support against the SOPA and PIPA bills.

Proposed anti-piracy laws SOPA and PIPA have yielded protests and debate among Internet activists and the media industry as the House and Senate move closer to a decision.

Thousands of Internet sites and activists have recently come together to oppose two anti-piracy bills. The two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), would strengthen protection against copyright infringement by restricting access to foreign sites that enable the trading of pirated content.

There has been quite a fuss over the bills from content groups, media companies and business representatives, who argue that growing Internet piracy is threatening content-creating industries, and Internet advocates who contend that the bills would stifle innovation and censor free information.

Tech companies, like Wikipedia and Reddit, launched a “blackout” on their sites to protest against the bills.

Wikipedia’s English-language site displayed a message to viewers that read: “Imagine a world without free knowledge…The US Congress is considering legislation that could fatally damage the free and open Internet. For 24 hours, to raise awareness, we are blacking out Wikipedia.”

Viewers were redirected to the protest page just moments after their intended searches were displayed. The page also provided  links to SOPA and PIPA, specifying additional information on the proposed bills, and a link that would help visitors reach their member of Congress to oppose the bills.

BoingBoing, Mozilla and TwitPic also participated in the protest, while Facebook and Twitter opposed the legislation but did not participate in the blackout.

Google’s logo remained hidden behind a black rectangle, linking to a petition that drew more than seven million signatures opposing the bills.

“It’s still something we’re trying to comprehend,” Google spokeswoman Samantha Smith said. “We had such an overwhelming response to our petition that it honestly far exceeded our expectations.”

Congress has halted the debate on the two bills, postponing the vote on the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that was originally scheduled for Jan. 24. Much of the decision was based on the recent events that were by Internet activists.

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” said Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Committee Chairman. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”