This pending PROTECT IP Act is very scary stuff. I am afraid it’s going to pass. It will result in a huge increase in governmental censorship of the Internet, requiring all American ISPs to block certain domains, thus depriving Americans of access to “censored” sites around the world–all in the name of copyright and the RIAA. IP is not a small issue any more. It is becoming a principal excuse for the state to regulate one of the most important weapons we have to fight against the state–the Internet and digital communications.
As the ThinkProgress post below notes, “in the name of policing copyright violations, Protect IP effectively makes it a felony to link to a website that is accused — that’s right, only accused — of being devoted to copyright infringement.”
For some great discussion of this issue, listen to the first 23 or so minutes of Bulletproof Radio Ep.137 – Aaron Swartz of Demand Progress Talks Protect IP; see also Protect IP: This is Your Fight Too; Ep.138 – Mike Masnick of Techdirt Talks MPAA Propaganda and Djdclarke Talks Shockedfish.
For those concerned, Demand Progress has information up:
TAKE ACTION: OPPOSE THE PROTECT IP ACT
We knew that members of Congress and their business allies were gearing up to pass a new version of the Internet Blacklist Bill — which more than 325,000 Demand Progress members helped block last winter — but we never expected it to be this atrocious.
Senators Leahy and Hatch revised the original bill, introducing new legislation that would institute a China-like censorship regime in the United States. Under PROTECT-IP, the Department of Justice could force search engines, browsers, and service providers to block users’ access to websites, and scrub the American Internet clean of any trace of their existence.
By Matthew Yglesias on Jun 7, 2011 at 9:15 am
Reihan Salam has an excellent column about the latest intellectual property law overreach, Senator Pat Leahy’s PROTECT IP bill:
Protect IP claims to be about combating online piracy, hence the bill’s clever name (it stands for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property). Yet in the name of policing copyright violations, Protect IP effectively makes it a felony to link to a website that is accused — that’s right, only accused — of being devoted to copyright infringement. As Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt explained to a press conference in London, Protect IP and laws like it will prove a “disastrous precedent” for free speech. He is absolutely right. Linking is the fundamental building block of the Internet, and hyperlinks are a form of free speech protected under the Constitution. Once the United States government starts messing with hyperlinks, every two-bit dictatorship on the planet will have carte blanche to do the same.
Fortunately, Ron Wyden has put a hold on this bill so we’re safe for now.
The baseline issue that legislators ought to ask themselves before they sign on to yet another draconian IP strengthening bill is this: What am I trying to fix? Are constituents writing in to complain that it’s harder than ever to find new music recordings to listen to? On the contrary, it’s never been easier. Are constituents concerned that Hollywood doesn’t crank out capital-intensive movies with stellar special effects these days? Again, no—special effects are getting cheaper and better. And because we now have lots of original programming from cable networks, we’re producing more television shows than ever before. It would be very strange to reach the conclusion that Americans in the year 2011 are suffering from a lack of entertainment options. The truth is that the push for these new laws is all about efforts to shore up specific businesses who are hurting precisely because the range of options available to consumers has escalated so dramatically.
See also my previous posts Masnick on the Horrible PROTECT IP Act: The Coming IPolice State; Son of COICA: New Copyright Bill Introduced; Patent Reform is Here! O Joy!; Pirate-slaying censorship bill, COICA, gets unanimous support; The Mountain of IP Legislation, and Masnick’s posts The Senators Who Say Merely Linking To Certain Sites Should Be A Felony and Senators Want To Put People In Jail For Embedding YouTube Videos.