Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stop SOPA/Protect-IP - They Really Could Wreak Havoc on the Internet

There is some seriously dangerous--for the online world--legislation working its way through the US Congress.  Known as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (Protect-IP) in the Senate, these bills would, if enacted, enable just about anyone to shut down any website with a "good faith" accusation of copyright infringement.  Notice that I didn't say "reasonable suspicion" or "proof," but rather "good faith."  That's right; all it would take is for someone--anyone--to assert a copyright/trademark claim, and the provisions of these bills would allow for penalties up to, and including, DNS blocking of the site(s) in question.  Yes, I said DNS blocking.  The same technique used by regimes such as China and Iran to "filter the Internet" would be used here in the US, on nothing more than a "hey, that's my content" accusation.  (Recent reports suggest that the DNS blocking provisions have been watered down and/or removed in conference hearings, but I'll believe it when I see it; when last I read the legislation, those provisions were still intact.)

This is wrong.  This is seriously, rise-to-the-level-of-un-American wrong.  Copyright and trademark owners already enjoy more than sufficient protections and remedies under the law; there is simply no reason to raise the stakes to this degree.  Thanks to previous excessive legislation--hello, Digital Millenium Copyright Act--we've already seen more than a few cases in which copyright holders (i'm looking at YOU, RIAA/MPAA) used excessive DMCA actions to have content blocked or removed from third-party websites.  Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame, mentions one of the most egregious examples in the article linked below; Uri Geller used DMCA threats against a critical website, even though he did not hold the copyright to the materials in question!  (Details here and ultimate result here.)  The point is simple; those sites who don't have the resources, or assistance from groups like EFF, to fight such bogus claims will find themselves forced to remove the content in question without the benefit of the due process of law.  Yep, it's guilty-until-proven-innocent; the RIAA and MPAA don't need that kind of help.

SOPA and Protect-IP are bad law, and will endanger the innovation that is the Internet.  If you're in the US, I strongly urge you to check out americancensorship.org and lend your voice to the campaign against this truly nefarious legislation.

Mythbuster Adam Savage: SOPA Could Destroy the Internet as We Know It - Popular Mechanics

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