Some articles on the downfalls of SOPA
"SOPA: Hollywood Finally Gets A Chance to Break the Internet
As promised, here’s the first installment of our closer review of the massive piece of job-killing Internet regulation that is the Stop Online Piracy Act. We’ll start with how it could impact Twitter, Tumblr, and the next innovative social network, cloud computing, or web hosting service that some smart kid is designing in her garage right now.
Let’s make one thing clear from the get-go: despite all the talk about this bill being directed only toward “rogue” foreign sites, there is no question that it targets US companies as well. The bill sets up a system to punish sites allegedly “dedicated to the theft of US property.” How do you get that label? Doesn’t take much: Some portion of your site (even a single page) must
1.be directed toward the US, and either
2.allegedly “engage in, enable or facilitate” infringement or
3.allegedly be taking or have taken steps to “avoid confirming a high probability” of infringement.
If an IP rightsholder (vaguely defined – could be Justin Bieber worried about his publicity rights) thinks you meet the criteria and that it is in some way harmed, it can send a notice claiming as much to the payment processors (Visa, Mastercard, Paypal etc.) and ad services you rely on.
Once they get it, they have 5 days to choke off your financial support. Of course, the payment processors and ad networks won’t be able to fine-tune their response so that only the allegedly infringing portion of your site is affected, which means your whole site will be under assault. And, it makes no difference that no judge has found you guilty of anything or that the DMCA safe harbors would shelter your conduct if the matter ever went to court. Indeed, services that have been specifically found legal, like Rapidshare, could be economically strangled via SOPA. You can file a counter-notice, but you’ve only got 5 days to do it (good luck getting solid legal advice in time) and the payment processors and ad networks have no obligation to respect it in any event. That’s because there are vigilante provisions that grant them immunity for choking off a site if they have a “reasonable belief” that some portion of the site enables infringement.
At a minimum, this means that any service that hosts user generated content is going to be under enormous pressure to actively monitor and filter that content. That’s a huge burden, and worse for services that are just getting started – the YouTubes of tomorrow that are generating jobs today. And no matter what they do, we’re going to see a flurry of notices anyway – as we’ve learned from the DMCA takedown process, content owners are more than happy to send bogus complaints. What happened to Wikileaks via voluntary censorship will now be systematized and streamlined – as long as someone, somewhere, thinks they’ve got an IP right that’s being harmed.
In essence, Hollywood is tired of those pesky laws that help protect innovation, economic growth, and creativity rather than outmoded business models. So they are trying to rewrite the rules, regulate the Internet, and damn the consequences for the rest of us.
Watch this space for more analysis, but don’t wait to act. This bill cannot be fixed; it must be killed. The bill’s sponsors (and their corporate backers) want to push this thing through quickly, before ordinary citizens get wind of the harm it is going to cause. If you don’t want to let big media control the future of innovation and online expression, act now, and urge everyone you know to do the same."
Reactions to these bills, “SOPA" H.R.3261 and PIPA S. 978
See how the internet fought back: American Censorship Day in Numbers.
“The potential for abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age … This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech.”
- Rebecca MacKinnon (New York Times)
“These bills were written by the content industry without any input from the technology industry. And they are trying to fast track them through congress and into law without any negotiation with the technology industry.”
- Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)
“SOPA, regrettably, represents a big step backward in Washington's efforts to support the digital revolution, one of the only sectors of the economy that continues to grow.”
- Larry Downes (TechFreedom)
“When civil liberties organizations describe the bills as encouraging “American censorship,” a weighty charge, the legal analysis by Professor Tribe and I support that conclusion. At least, according to the American Supreme Court’s established First Amendment jurisprudence.”
- Marvin Ammori (& Laurence Tribe), Leading Constitution Scholars
“It contains provisions that will chill innovation. It contains provisions that will tinker with the fundamental fabric of the internet. It gives private corporations the power to censor. And best of all, it bypasses due legal process to do much of it.”
- James Allworth (Harvard Business School)
“The main "enforcement" mechanism in these bills is to put liability on third party service providers coming from the tech industry, undermining the safe harbors of the DMCA and the legal framework that has allowed tons of important internet platforms to evolve.”
- Mike Masnick (TechDirt)
“[SOPA would] overturn the long-accepted principles and practices [of the DMCA] in favor of a one-sided enforcement mechanism that is far more broad than existing law while not attempting to protect the rights of anyone accused of copyright infringement.”
- Gigi B. Sohn (President of Public Knowledge)
“When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us.. There isn’t an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There’s just the Internet.”
- Hillary Clinton (United States Secretary of State)
“This is a move that threatens, rather than protects, property rights, and also threatens America's Internet and tech leadership.”
- Neil Stevens (RedState.com) http://americancensorship.org/
If you want to get in touch, contact us here: team [at] fightforthefuture.org
Press contact: press [at] fightforthefuture.org or (508) 474-5248
House takes Senate's bad Internet censorship bill, tries making it worse
By Nate Anderson | Published 2 months ago
"Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website's online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments. The credit card processors and the advertising networks would be required to take quick action against the named website; only the filing of a “counter notification” by the website could get service restored.
It's the world envisioned by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) in today's introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US House of Representatives. This isn't some off-the-wall piece of legislation with no chance of passing, either; it's the House equivalent to the Senate's PROTECT IP Act, which would officially bring Internet censorship to the US as a matter of law.
Calling its plan a “market-based system to protect US customers and prevent US funding of sites dedicated to theft of US property,” the new bill gives broad powers to private actors. Any holder of intellectual property rights could simply send a letter to ad network operators like Google and to payment processors like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, demanding these companies cut off access to any site the IP holder names as an infringer.
The scheme is much like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) "takedown notices," in which a copyright holder can demand some piece of content be removed from sites like YouTube with a letter. The content will be removed unless the person who posted the content objects; at that point, the copyright holder can decide if it wants to take the person to court over the issue.
Here, though, the stakes are higher. Rather than requesting the takedown of certain hosted material, intellectual property owners can go directly for the jugular: marketing and revenue for the entire site. So long as the intellectual property holders include some “specific facts” supporting their infringement claim, ad networks and payment processors will have five days to cut off contact with the website in question.
The scheme is largely targeted at foreign websites which do not recognize US law, and which therefore will often refuse to comply with takedown requests. But the potential for abuse—even inadvertent abuse—here is astonishing, given the terrifically outsized stick with which content owners can now beat on suspected infringers.
One thing private actors can't do under the new bill is actually block a site from the Internet, though it hardly matters, because the government has agreed to do it for them. The bill gives government lawyers the power to go to court and obtain an injunction against any foreign website based on a generally single-sided presentation to a judge. Once that happens, Internet providers have 5 days to “prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site.”
The government can also go after anyone who builds a tool designed for the "circumvention or bypassing" of the Internet block. Such tools already exist as a result of the US government's ongoing campaign to seize Internet domain names it believes host infringing content; they can redirect visitors who enter the site's address to its new location. The government has already asked Web browser makers like Mozilla to remove access to these sorts of tools. Mozilla refused, so the new bill just tries to ban such tools completely. (Pointing your computer's browser to a foreign DNS server in order to view a less-censored Internet still appears to be legal.)
Search engines, too, are affected, with the duty to prevent the site in question “from being served as a direct hypertext link.” Payment processors and ad networks would also have to cut off the site.
Finally, and for good measure, Internet service providers and payment processors get the green light to simply block access to sites on their own volition—no content owner notification even needed. So long as they believe the site is “dedicated to the theft of US property,” Internet providers and payment processors can't be sued.
The House bill is shockingly sympathetic to a narrow subsection of business interests. For instance, buried deep in the back of the >70-page document is a requirement that the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator prepare a study for Congress. That study should analyze “notorious foreign infringers” and attempt to quantify the “significant harm inflicted by notorious foreign infringers.” (Talk about assuming your conclusions before you start.)
The report, which is specifically charged to give weight to the views of content owners, requests a set of specific policy recommendations that might “encourage foreign businesses to adopt industry norms to promote the protection of intellectual property globally.” Should the bill pass, the US government would be explicitly charged with promoting private “industry norms”—not actual laws or treaties—around the world.
In the request for the report, we can also see the IP maximalist lobby preparing for its next move: shutting off access to US capital markets and preventing companies from "offering stock for sale to the public" in the US.
Call it what it is
Not all censorship is bad—but we need to have an honest discussion about when and how to deploy it, rather than wrapping an unprecedented set of censorship tools in meaningless terms like "rogue site," or by calling a key section of the new bill the "E-PARASITE Act."
You don't have to support piracy—and we don't—to see the many problems with this new approach. Just today, the RIAA submitted to the US government a list of "notorious markets." As part of that list, the RIAA included "cyberlockers" like MegaUpload, which are "notorious services" that "thumb their noses at international laws, all while pocketing significant advertising revenues from trafficking in free, unlicensed copyrighted materials."
It's not hard to imagine how long it would take before such sites--which certainly do host plenty of user-uploaded infringing content--are targeted under the new law. Yet they have a host of legal uses, and cyberlockers like RapidShare have been declared legal by both US and European courts.
Not surprisingly, the new bill is getting pushback from groups like NetCoalition, which counts Google, Yahoo, and small ISPs among its members. "As leading brands of the Internet, we strongly oppose offshore 'rogue' websites and share policymakers' goal of combating online infringement of copyrights and trademarks," said executive director Markham Erickson in a statement.
"However, we do not believe that the solution lies in regulating the Internet and comprising its stability and security. We do not believe that it is worth overturning a decade of settled law that has formed the legal foundation for all social media. And finally, we do not believe that it is worth restricting free speech or providing comfort to totalitarian regimes that seek to control and restrict the Internet freedoms of their own citizens."
Dozens of law professors have also claimed the original PROTECT IP Act, which contains most of the same ideas, is unconstitutional. But the drumbeat for some sort of censorship is growing louder." http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/10/house-takes-senates-bad-internet-censorship-bill-makes-it-worse.ars
The free and unhindered exchange of ideas is the way to get out of corporatist rule where every thought is liable to be sold to the highest bidder. The actual "piracy" of music or art is claimed to be the reason for SOPA/PIPA, though in reality it will effect a great many websites that enable free speech and exchange of ideas. Music and art are of the spirit, and this has no claim to "intellectual property rights", neither do ideas. If people on the internet can discuss a wide range of topics without interference, the passage of SOPA/PIPA will clamp down upon the free exchange. If society turns every idea, song and painting into a commercial commodity, the entire culture will suffer from losing their natural voice and be replaced by people creating art based upon predicting consumer demands.
Follow the money - Corporations fund SOPA
Who is funding SOPA? http://www.stopsopa.org/?page_id=40
Who supports SOPA?
The three organizations that have probably been the most vocal are the MPAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the US Chamber of Commerce. A Politico chart shows that Hollywood has outspent Silicon Valley by about tenfold on lobbyists in the last two years.
Supporters publicized letters from the National Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Fire Fighters lending their weight to the web-blocking idea. And the AFL-CIO sent a representative to testify in support of SOPA at the House hearings in mid-December.
Over 400 businesses and organizations have sent a letter supporting SOPA."
- and -
"It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies.” – William O. Douglas
“When truth is no longer free, freedom is no longer real: the truths of the police are the truths of today.” – Jacques Brevert
In the next few weeks, among the most talked-about legislation will be the Stop Online Piracy Act — commonly referred to as SOPA — which, if passed, would give the Justice Department the authority to block access to foreign websites deemed to be dedicated to copyright infringement.
Both SOPA and its Senate version, PIPA (officially known as the PROTECT-IP Act), have widespread bipartisan support among lawmakers. But the proposed law has become a pitched battle between entertainment companies — who believe SOPA will curb the illegal distribution of movies and music — and online media companies like Google and Facebook, who fear that the bills will be burdensome to implement and are tantamount to censorship.
When Rep. Lamar Smith announced the Stop Online Piracy Act in late October, he knew it was going to be controversial. But the Texas republican probably never anticipated the broad and fierce outcry from internet users that SOPA has provoked over the last few months. It was a show of public opposition to Internet-related legislation not seen since the 2003 political wrangling over implanting copy-protection technology in PCs, or perhaps even the blue ribbons appearing on websites in the mid-1990s in response to the Communications Decency Act.
Smith, a self-described former ranch manager whose congressional district encompasses the cropland and grazing land stretching between Austin and San Antonio, Texas, has become Hollywood’s favorite republican. The TV, movie, and music industries are the top donors to his 2012 campaign committee, and he’s been feted by music and movie industry lobbyists at dinners and concerts.
How does SOPA, and its Senate cousin known as the Protect IP Act, affect you? In the following segment we shall attempt to cover most of the frequently asked questions…
What’s the justification for SOPA and Protect IP?
Two words: rogue sites. That’s Hollywood’s term for websites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement than the United States is (in fact, the US is probably the least hospitable jurisdiction in the world for such an endeavor). Because the target is offshore, a lawsuit against the owners in a US court would be futile.
The US Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, put it this way: “Rogue websites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.” The MPAA has a section of its website devoted to rogue Web sites. Jim Hood, the democratic attorney general of Mississippi, and co-chair of a National Association of Attorneys General committee on the topic, recently likened rogue websites to child pornography.
Who’s opposed to SOPA?
Much of the Internet industry and a large percentage of internet users.
On November 15, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization’s enthusiastic support for SOPA.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution in mid-December stressing “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said in a message on Twitter last week that we “need to find a better solution than SOPA.”
A letter signed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both California democrats, and Rep. Ron Paul, the republican presidential candidate from Texas, predicts that SOPA will invite “an explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation.” Law professors have also raised concerns. And yes, there is a protest song." http://thedirtylowdown.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/sopa-faq-what-does-it-mean-to-you/