The truth of the matter is, the MPAA appears to have authored the so-called stop online piracy acts that members of Congress are trying to shove through both houses this month, without any proper hearings or opportunities for input from those in the technology and business industries that grew and thrive on the Internet. MPAA Admits They Are Writing Internet Blacklist Bill

This legislation will not achieve its supposed goal of stopping digital piracy of intellectual property. It will, however, result in creating a vehicle of massive censorship of the Internet. Worst of all, it will enable private companies to circumvent and ignore pesky things like the law, the judiciary, due process, discovery, and pretty much element that insures the rule of law.

This is one of the worst pieces of legislation that Congress has tried to pass in some time. This is primarily because it is being passed by people in Congress who literally know nothing about what they are legislating. They have taken the word of the movie and entertainment industry, who pretty much wrote this law. They have not listened to, or invited the input of, people who invented and nurtured the Internet into one of the most successful communication and information instruments in the history of humankind.

The mechanism that this legislation depends on is censorship and blocking by using the Domain Name Services (DNS). The problem is, the legislation has been drafted by people who are totally ignorant of how DNS works. If you block a domain, e.g. www.mydomain.com, you have blocked EVERYTHING and every page and person on that domain. There is no way to block say www.mydomain.com/badperson, while not blocking www.mydomain.com/goodperson. DNS does not operate at that granular level. DNS takes the URL you have typed in in this case www.mydomain.com, asks nearby DNS servers if they know of this name, and if so, would thay send back the IP number that is associated with that name, e.g. 102.103.104.105, since that is the information needed to contact the server hosting the domain and retrieve the site. In other words, the core enforcement mechanism envisaged is totally broken and flawed from the get go!

I also firmly believe that the members of Congress actually welcome the obvious ease with which censorship of postings on the Internet will ensue under this legislation. In that, they are very much like their colleagues in Russia. See the final news item quoted below. History and irony can be strange.

Below are quotes from some important takes on this legislation, which must be stopped right now. While there is need to address piracy online, this is not the way to do it, by essentially strangling the Internet as an open forum of communication. That plays right into the hands of totalitarianism.

There is little more that can be said about the currently awful bills proposed in both houses other than this: if the American people want to preserve the free and open Internet and the revolution in freedom to communicate it has offered, and the profound impact it has had on the course of history, the greatest since the Bible was printed over 500 years ago, then they should be calling Congress and demanding that the current bad bills be thrown in the trash where they belong.

The problems can be handled with rational action under existing law and trade agreements, as part of the judicial system of due process and review. Is Congress just intent on totally and completely ignoring the rule of law in every aspect of America life? It certainly has seemed that way for the past 12 years.

As reported at ars technica:

Here’s the plan, according to a draft seen by Ars Technica: online piracy from overseas sites will be taken away from the Attorney General and moved out of the courts. Instead, power will be vested in the International Trade Commission, which already handles IP disputes relating to imports (the ITC is heavily involved in the recent patent wars around smartphones, for instance).

The government won’t bring cases, either; rightsholders can petition the ITC for a “cease and desist” order, but only when the site in question is foreign and is “primarily” and “willfully” violating US law. Sites would be notified and would have a right to be heard before decisions are made in most cases, and rulings could be appealed to a US court if desired by either party. (“Urgent” requests could get preliminary and temporary letters based on a one-sided hearing, but the process also envisions “sanctions” for any company that tries to abuse the ITC process.)

Sites which are truly bent on counterfeiting and piracy are unlikely to pay much attention to a US-based cease and desist order, of course, so the new plan envisions two remedies. If such an order is issued, Internet advertising firms and financial providers would have to stop offering credit card payments and ads to the site in question. Website blocking by ISPs and DNS providers is not part of the plan, nor would search engines or others be required to remove links to such content.

The two-page draft of the plan is being issued so that “the public can provide us with feedback and counsel before the proposal is formally introduced in the House and the Senate.” And clearly, feedback would be useful. Can such a “follow the money” plan do anything about noncommercial piracy, for instance? Should it try to do so? But the whole shift in tone marked by the new approach looks far more promising than anything likely to come out of the mess that is SOPA.

Who’s behind all of this sweet sanity? Senators Wyden (D-OR), Cantwell (D-WA), Moran (R-KS), and Warner (D-VA); Reps. Chaffetz (R-UT), Campbell (R-CA), Doggett (D-TX), Eshoo (D-CA), Issa (R-CA), and Lofgren (D-CA).

SOPA on the ropes? Bipartisan alternative to ‘Net censorship emerges

Alexandra Petri writes in the Washington Post about how watching the ludicrous circus that the few hearings on this bill were gave him nightmares. Watching the blind being led by the nose by the entertainment industry that authored these awful bills was not fun.

If I had a dime for every time someone in the hearing used the phrase “I’m not a nerd” or “I’m no tech expert, but they tell me . . .,” I’d have a large number of dimes and still feel intensely worried about the future of the uncensored Internet. If this were surgery, the patient would have run out screaming a long time ago. But this is like a group of well-intentioned amateurs getting together to perform heart surgery on a patient incapable of moving. “We hear from the motion picture industry that heart surgery is what’s required,” they say cheerily. “We’re not going to cut the good valves, just the bad — neurons, or whatever you call those durn thingies.”

This is terrifying to watch. It would be amusing — there’s nothing like people who did not grow up with the Internet attempting to ask questions about technology very slowly and stumbling over words like “server” and “service” when you want an easy laugh. Except that this time, the joke’s on us.

It’s been a truism for some time that you can tell innovation in an industry has ceased when the industry starts to develop a robust lobbying and litigating presence instead.

As long as there have been new technologies, the entertainment industry has been trying to get them shut down as filthy, thieving pirates. Video cassettes? Will anyone tune into TV again? MP3 players? Why even bother making a record? Digital video recorder that lets you skip ads? That’s a form of theft!

But SOPA is threatening to touch something far more precious than that — the glorious sprawl of the Internet.

SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill that, in the name of preventing online piracy of copyrighted work, creates a horrifyingly large censorship authority for the Internet. Among other things, it requiresservice providers (which have come out opposing the bill) to block access to entire sites if a user on the site is accused of copyright infringement.

There are dozens of reasons this is wrong. The biggest and most pressing is that not only does the bill not do what it sets out to do, it also creates a horrifyingly blunt instrument to censor the Internet.

The nightmarish SOPA hearings
By Alexandra Petri

Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute had similar reactions. He goes into some detail on the key things that are still wrong with and bad about this legislation, even after some tweaks were made in response to the growing firestorm of opposition among those who actually understand how the Internet works.

By Julian Sanchez

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee is slated to take up the misleadingly named Stop Online Piracy Act, an Internet censorship bill that will do little to actually stop piracy. In response to an outpouring of opposition from cybersecurity professionals, First Amendment scholars, technology entrepreneurs, and ordinary Internet users, the bill’s sponsors have cooked up an amended version that trims or softens a few of the most egregious provisions of the original proposal, bringing it closer to its Senate counterpart, PROTECT-IP. But the fundamental problem with SOPA has never been these details; it’s the core idea. The core idea is still to create an Internet blacklist, which means everything I say in this video still holds true.

Let’s review the main changes. Three new clarifying clauses have been added up front: the first two make clear that SOPA is not meant to create an affirmative obligation for site owners to monitor user content (good!) or mandate the implementation of technologies as a condition of compliance with the law (also good!). But the underlying incentives created by the statute push strongly in that direction whether or not it’s a formal requirement: What else do we imagine sites threatened under this law because of user-uploaded content or links will do to escape liability? A third clause says the bill shouldn’t be construed in a way that would impair the security or integrity of the network—which is a bit like slapping a label on a cake stipulating that it shouldn’t be construed to make you fat. These are all nice sentiments, but they remind me of the old philosophers’ joke: “You’ve obviously misinterpreted my theory; I didn’t intend for it to have any counterexamples!”

The other big change is to the private right of action, which previously would have allowed any copyright holder to unilaterally compel payment processors and ad networks to cut off sites that it merely accuses of infringement, or enabling infringement, or (in a baffling specimen of tortured language) taking “deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability” that the site would be used for infringement. That last little hate crime against English is mercifully absent from the revised SOPA, and it makes clear that only foreign sites are covered, and a judge is now required to actually issue an order before intermediaries are obligated to sever ties.

Which ultimately goes to show that the original proposal was so profoundly wretched that you can improve it a great deal, and still have a very bad idea. This is still, as many legal scholars have correctly observed, censorship by slightly circuitous economic means. The involvement of a judge should (knock on wood) weed out the most obviously frivolous complaints, but it still makes it far too easy for U.S. corporations to effectively destroy foreign Internet sites based on a one-sided proceeding in U.S. courts

Online Piracy Bill Changed; Still Stinks

In related news in Russia, the core of the former USSR, the Soviet Union, we read that experts there are pushing for similar legislation. I suppose Michelle Bachman, who recently said we should be more like Communist China, will get on board with this. We need to be more like Russia, which is clearly the kind of free and open democratic society we want to emulate.

Right?

Russia’s League of Internet Security proposed on Wednesday creating a blacklist of websites containing child pornography and “other prohibited information” and oblige internet providers to block such sites.

“There are some people who believe that internet freedom should be absolute,” said Channel One newsreader Pyotr Tolstoi, a member of the Russian Public Chamber and the League’s board of trustees.

“But I personally believe that freedom for perverts on the internet is a luxury that we cannot allow to exist,” Tolstoi said at a news conference in Moscow, adding that “immediate action” needed to be taken.

Many internet users and opposition activists have described the moves as an attempt by the state to “introduce censorship” of the internet in order to prevent the spread of protest sentiments amid strong public criticism of the December 4 parliamentary elections.

Numerous videos from polling stations were posted on the internet following the vote, featuring what protesters have described as wide-spread vote fraud in favor of United Russia. The alleged violations triggered mass street protests across the country last week, including a major rally in downtown Moscow last Saturday, which gathered between 25,000 and 50,000 plus protesters, according to various estimates.

Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council and a former FSB chief, was reported on Wednesday to have called for the “rational regulation of the internet” in an interview with the Argumenti I Fakti daily.

“Attempts to prevent personal communication are counterproductive, and even immoral,” he said, “but we cannot ignore that the internet is being used by criminals and terrorist gangs.”

“Rational regulation of the internet should take place in Russia, as happens in the United States, China and many other countries,” he added.

Russian internet watchdog proposes bills to fight child porn, online extremism