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Join the Fight for Online Liberty While You Still Have Some

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You may have been surprised today when visiting one of your favorite websites to find it inaccessible or to find yourself redirected to a special page or to find a new design with a grim theme – all of this for the purpose of making you aware of the threat to your internet liberty posed by legislation currently pending in Congress. Participating sites include Google, Tumblr and most dramatically Wikipedia.  You may also find many of your Facebook friends sporting alarming profile pictures for the same reasons.

This is part of an effort by some internet content providers to strike back against a coalition of movie and recording industry giants who have spent a lot of money on advertising and lobbying to push forward the Protect IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R.3261) in the House at the start of next week’s legislative session.  Harry Reid is expected to put PIPA up for a floor vote on Tuesday.

These bills are aimed at internet piracy, but in such a broad and unbalanced way that they threaten everyone’s liberty on the internet.  They are intended to expand the ability of US law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods, allowing the Department of Justice, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites accused of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

While some concern over online piracy is justified, SOPA and PIPA do not really target the major offshore data havens which are the real source of the problem and they give unaccountable enforcement power to government agencies which can be used to intimidate content providers, shut down entire networks based on nothing more than an accusation, and even blacklist  businesses and remove them from the internet entirely. This will have the sort of chilling effect we have already seen from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, discouraging development in this increasingly important sector of the economy. It could also lead to wholesale violations of the privacy rights of individuals and businesses.

SOPA and PIPA could put Internet Service Providers in a position where they would have to block public access to websites on their networks or hurt network efficiency with complex monitoring schemes or face penalties directed at them for the actions of their customers.  Threats of shutdowns based on nothing but an unsubstantiated accusation of facilitating copyright infringement could lead to preemptive action against accused sites.  Web-based businesses and private sites would be treated as guilty until they could prove their innocence, a complete reversal of American legal tradition.  This could be devastating to small businesses which cannot afford the legal costs of a fight to defend their rights. There is huge potential for lawsuit abuse and intimidation from media giants with deep pockets and their own legal teams.

Opponents have compared this legislation to the kind of censorship practiced in China. Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation described SOPA as “the worst piece of intellectual property legislation we’ve seen in the last decade.” Protests from consumer groups, civil liberties advocates and online businesses are widespread, culminating in today’s symbolic protests on many popular sites.

The author of SOPA in the House and one of the leading forces behind the legislation is Lamar Smith (R-TX) who has been responsible for much of the worst legislation of the past decade, including the PATRIOT Act, REAL ID and many of the laws which have facilitated the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.  Now he wants to make war on the internet.  He is supported by other big government Republicans like Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), who is a virtual hireling of the Disney Corporation.  There is also bi-partisan opposition led by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in the Senate and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) in the House.  The President has also expressed concern over the content of the acts.

Supporters claim that PIPA and SOPA have been “improved” and want to push them through as quickly as possible, but analysis of the bills from groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union still find major flaws in the legislation. Concerned groups are organizing call-in and email efforts to influence Congress before next week.  

If you are concerned about keeping the internet free and would like them to go back to work and find ways to fight piracy without hurting private citizens and small businesses which drive one of the most dynamic segments of our economy, use the form provided by the Republican Liberty Caucus to write your Senators and speak up against PIPA while you still can.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://blog.tusharnene.com tushar nene

    Dave,

    I have a similar story over in the Sci/Tech section called “The Day the Web Went Dark” and have written a couple of posts on SOPA. I enjoyed reading your article, especially recognizing that while both of us carry different political ideologies, we can easily agree on this.

    It’s important to note that this is an issue important enough to transcend partisan politics, as there are Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the argument.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I was listening to Thom Hartmann (whose interview with you I did enjoy) this morning, and he played a statement from an Icelandic government official who was pointing out just how SOPA would affect not only America but the free world as a whole, and how our internet would become much like China’s.

    It’s nice to see that in this, at least, those of us who are so opposed on so many issues can strongly agree and stand together. You’ve my sincere support on this one, Dave.

  • http://joannehuspek.wordpress.com/ Joanne Huspek

    Mine too.

    Protecting intellectual property is one thing, but when such a law encroaches on our personal liberty, that’s another thing altogether.

  • Cannonshop

    More to the point, SOPA/PIPA lacks fundamental mechanisms to protect the accused from false allegations, lacks a clear definition of what constitutes a violation, and won’t stop the real IP Pirates from operating.

    IOW, it violates both the stated intent of hte bill, and the traditional constitutional protections of free speech, and Due Process.

    Now, while it’s fashionable in D.C. to violate Due Process (NDAA was signed into law, after all),doing so is still wrong.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/IanMayfield Dr Dreadful

    What… Blogcritics is still up?

    I would have thought SURELY Technorati would be joining in the protest…

    :-p

  • Clavos

    Always the starry-eyed idealist, Doc…

    Dave: Good piece on a most important issue!

    Thanks!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I just contacted my Representative Norm Dicks, and my senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to tell them to oppose SOPA and PIPA.

    Let’s all do the same!

    P.S. It’s really nice to see everyone on BC agree on something.

  • Igor

    Kick the businesses off the internet entirely!

    Nobody needs them. The internet was built by schools and individuals and represents an open public asset. They just want to steal it.

    Let business go build their own network. Maybe they want to start with the remnants of SNA, since Big Business always said that it was soooo much better than ARPAnet.

    No. They just want to steal the internet asset and then enslave internet users.

    We should never have handed out that damn TLD ‘com’! We don’t need any more than edu, org and net. In fact, the whole idea of TLDs is unecessary and unwise.

    Get your cotton-pickin’ commercial crap off my internet!

  • Clavos

    Get your cotton-pickin’ commercial crap off my internet!

    Thanks but no thanks, Igor. Internet commerce is one of the greatest aspects of the ‘net (and pretty much pays the bills). For years, I have bought nearly everything on the ‘net — even my last two cars were bought directly from the manufacturers’ websites. Local dealers did not get involved except to deliver me my car of choice.

    Internet shopping is almost always cheaper than buying at a brick and mortar store and rarely does one have to pay sales tax.

    Keep your cotton-pickin’ hands off my Amazons, iTunes and Appstores!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos – Igor is wrong to want all commercial traffic off the internet…but what led to his outburst was the fact that it’s Big Business that is the driving force behind SOPA…and if Big Business has its way, our internet is going the way of China’s and Iran’s.

    Again, there needs to be a Goldilocks solution – the best way is somewhere in between the two.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Based on what I’ve read, most on the left and on the right seem to be in basic agreement that some of our legislators should have their mouths washed out with SOPA. In Spanish, sopa means “soup,” but that wouldn’t be the same.

    This seems another instances where our busy legislators didn’t bother to read, or to ponder the unforeseen consequences of, what they sponsored or initially favored. That has become a big problem.

  • http://www.goalsettingsuccesschallenge.com Mike Lawson

    It seems incredible that the people promoting SOPA think they can interfere with the web in this way. How exactly do they expect to enforce this if they were succcessful? Do they think they can control the rest of the world as well as the US?!!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I think it rather naive, Dan (Miller) to attribute the general support for this bill to lack of reading/comprehension skills.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Roger, re #13, why do you think that, since both the left and the right now appear to oppose SOPA after having figured out what its implications might be?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I wasn’t aware they’re opposing it. If that’s the case, then I stand corrected.

  • Clavos

    Glenn,

    Although it’s true that the two biggest entities behind the concept of stopping online piracy are the RIAA and the MPAA, it was the shithead senators and congresshits who drafted the draconian legislation to include unconstitutional powers for law enforcement.

    All the RIAA and MPAA aked for (and they have this right, IMO) is legislation to curtail online piracy, which at this point has reached epic proportions.

    Once again, the government is Americans’ worst enemy.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Roger, re #15 — here’s one example of many. You may be surprised at how many you can find.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Then for the life of me, I can’t understand what’s wrong with these guys. I could well understand their being in somebody’s pocket, but sheer stupidity?

    These are your colleagues, Dan, graduates from the same schools you’ve gone to. Can you explain that?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    And who was it that OWNED those senators and representatives? What is needed is to get corporate money OUT of politics, because it’s hard for me to believe that a significant number of those in Congress would support these bills if they weren’t worried about their corporate support going to their opponents.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Roger, re #18, These are your colleagues, Dan, graduates from the same schools you’ve gone to. Can you explain that?

    There is an unfortunate tendency in both parties and regardless of schools attended to play follow the leader. That means, don’t bother to read legislation — even if you are among its sponsors — and don’t worry about the “unanticipated” consequences which should be anticipated if the legislation were read. Then, when constituents react unfavorably and in large numbers, there is a tendency to do what should have been done initially.

    Remember former Speaker Pelosi’s brilliant observations about ObamaCare — to the effect that we have to pass it so you can see what’s in it and, about whether it’s constitutional, “Are you serious? Are you Serious?

    Bismark was probably correct in his analogy concerning laws and sausages.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Of course they didn’t read it. Their staffers told them to sponsor/support it after their donors shaped the bill. Now that Congress members see so many people revolting against it, they are changing their tune.

  • Clavos

    Glenn,

    What the assholes in congress wanted to pass IN NO WAY serves the purposes of Hollywood and the record industry; it gives the government — your enemy and mine — the power to impinge on our rights. The movie people and record folks are only looking to stop theft of their products — it’s the shitheads in Washington DC who want the extra power, and they wrote it into the legislation.

    I’ve investigated this piracy issue: it is possible to download for free virtually any album, movie, TV program or ebook ever published — any — and within hours of release or publication! That’s what the RIAA and MPAA want stopped — they are not looking to give police unconstitutional powers — that’s the jerks in congress.

  • Clavos

    And Glenn, if you don’t believe that what every one of those assholes in Washington from Obama down wants is absolute, unlimited power over all the rest of us, you’re naive beyond belief.

  • Zingzing

    oh, clavos… Hyperbole gets you nowhere.

    and not that I’m for this legislation, but have any of you read the legislation, or did you get your info second hand? I know it’s their job to read that stuff, but everyone around here seems to KNOW what’s in the legislation and also know that the legislators do not know what’s in the legislation…

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    Don’t have to read it to know some legislators didn’t. Supporters of the bill doing a 180 is one thing because they could just have been responding to the party or a favor called in. But when sponsors of the bill change their position, what other explanation is there?

  • http://oneamericansrant.blogspot.com/ One Americans Rant

    I, too, think that this legislation is crap – way too much overboard. Several people here asked if anyone has read it, and I have not, yet, but here is the text.

    This looked like a good descriptive article in FAQ form, and CNET is usually a good source for comp-related info.

    Cory Doctorow has written some good stuff on copyright protection. His site, Craphound talks some about this topic, and is interesting in its own right. Here is a video of him talking about SOPA.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    If government gets that power, would they get even one penny in their pockets from it? No, unless it’s from the corporations who pay them.

    Follow the MONEY, Clavos. You’re so sure it’s the power, but the power means squat without the MONEY.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Links to both versions of the bill are in the first paragraph of the article. And yes, I have read them. They’re typical of a lot of recent legislation with wording so broad it could be grossly abused, and they are largely based on a misunderstanding of what the real threats and their sources are, giving out indiscriminate enforcement power and opening the door to abusive litigation without solving any of the real problems.

    And Igor, I was there when the internet was invented, and from the very first moment it was conceived private companies were involved. Communications companies like AT&T were in it from the beginning because they were the infrastructure providers the universities and government agencies relied on for their networks, and computer companies like IBM and DEC were also part of the process because they had developed the data platforms and network architecture which turned intranets into the internet. And good luck creating a nationwide network without modems from AT&T, Vadic and Hayes.

    Dave

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    These bills are part of a pattern of an instinct to control that has always been present in US politics but has become dominant since 9/11 and in the process is destroying America.

    It is just as capable of manifesting on the left or the right of politics as all it cares about is control of the people.

    Soviet Russia as was, Communist China, Iran, Egypt, Syria, the USA, the UK, the EU, this trend is manifesting everywhere and has been for many decades. It needs resisting everywhere and at every opportunity.

    I’m not against government by any means but government is out of control by the people and failing to serve the people almost everywhere we look.

    It’s going to take a massive change in attitude by lot of people to break this trend and at the moment there does not seem to be enough people who oppose what is happening to do that, so things are probably going to get worse before they hopefully get better.

    Twelve years ago I was seriously considering moving to the USA but now I wouldn’t even set foot in there, which is incredibly depressing.

    I am working on my exit plan as we speak, because I just don’t feel safe any more.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Chris, aren’t you in Spain? Isn’t that like sitting int he bottom of the well telling us not to jump?

    Dave

  • http://www.RosesSpanishBoots.com Christopher Rose

    Hi Dave,

    I’m mostly in the UK these days unfortunately.

    Spain isn’t so bad really as far as European countries are concerned. Most of them have a fairly controlling attitude, in principle at least, and Spain is a particularly difficult place in which to do business but it also has a cultural bias towards people and freedom.

    As to the well thing, my perspective is that the USA has become far more repressive and controlling than anywhere in the EU, although it has unfortunately retained its ability to influence other countries and both we and many other nations are copying the bad example the USA is setting.

  • Igor

    If I was broke Spain would be one of the best places to be. Especially if my SS was still secure. The US is the worst.

  • Igor

    #28-Dave: then you must be 74 like me. Were you there when we hooked up some TTYs to a 1401 in Raleigh (after hours, all soto voce) using homemade Modems, in 1958? To post the customary ARPA mailings of grad school papers?

    The only way the companies were involved is because we pirated computer time and leased lines after hours without their knowledge. They were against it all. There were some adventurous scientist/engineer guys in some of the company labs that participated in ARPA activities, but the company management always hated it. And that goes in spades for IBM and ATT.

    Of course IBM and ATT had their own ideas about networking, but it was all hobbled by their security and control manias.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Would they accept a disgruntled American of European extraction?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I notice you gave DARPA no credit at all for the internet. I’m assuming that it was just an oversight since I really don’t think you’re so anti-government that you’d ignore what they did.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor #33 –

    That’s pretty impressive.

    :)

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, if you read my article from last year about the subject I credit DARPA plenty there. But Igor was claiming that ONLY government and academic groups formed the internet (DARPA being one) and my point was that there was comercial involvement from the very beginning. Not the beginning of networking, but the beginning of the internet – Igor seems to be confusing the two.

    And Igor. I was present in the room when representatives of all the individual networks sat down and discussed how to link them together, a meeting which led to the creation of what we call the internet from the non-integrated individual networks you are talking about. What you were doing in 1958 was cool, but it was not the internet.

    Dave

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I believe you, and I think it’s very cool that you were there. Like I said, I really didn’t think you would have intentionally left out DARPA. There’s some things you say where I believe you without reservation, and this is one of them.

  • Igor

    Dave is just slavishly devoted to corporate glory. Here’s one of his demonstrably wrong statements:

    “And good luck creating a nationwide network without modems from AT&T, Vadic and Hayes.”

    There were NO factory made modems at the beginning. We all cobbled them together as bi-phase or bi-tone FSK modulators. They were all handmade. I didn’t see a factory-made modem until about 1966 when IBM came out with a nice acoustic-coupled modem in a black walnut case with dove-tailed joints: a real beauty.

  • Igor

    Of course we built custom modems for dedicated lines such as the IBM BiSync system for transmitting tped data between systems between 1090 BSC devices.

    ALL the corporate systems of those days were designed for dedicated proprietary protocol leased lines. Corporations hated dialup connections.

    Originally it was “ARPA”, the Advanced Research Projects Administration”, the DOD came clumping in with their hob-nailed boots later when they saw it was a good thing, and tried to muscle into management. Now everyone thinks the DOD invented the internet.

  • Clavos

    Now everyone thinks the DOD invented the internet.

    Except for algore, of course…