February 13, 2012
By Drew Bowling
While details about a proposed cyber-security bill remain elusive, one frightful speculation seems to be making the rounds lately: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not abandoned his effort to shackle the Internet.
After Internet commoners and companies alike pushed back in a determined way last month against the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, many were content to pat themselves on the back for defeating the bill. The bills, though, while delayed, were not convincingly defeated.
Harry Reid appears unwilling to let SOPA go quietly into the night. An article published last night on RT reports that Reid may be trying to resurrect SOPA by couching it within a new cyber-security bill. Worse, the new bill would also reawaken the proposed Kill Switch bill from last year. Kill Switch, another Internet-regulating bill that was lobbied by Sen. Joe Lieberman, would instill the White House with the executive power to shut down the Internet in response to a cyber threat. Awesome, right?
Last month, it was hard to imagine that any legislature could be worse for the Internet than SOPA. Now that Reid may be attempting to include Kill Switch with his renewed efforts to pass the bill, he may officially become the Dr. Frankenstein of monstrous bills that seek to muzzle the Internet.
January 30, 2012
By Nile Bowie
In the wake of a public outcry against internet regulation bills such as SOPA and PIPA, representatives of the EU have signed a new and far more threatening legislation yesterday in Tokyo. Spearheaded by the governments of the United States and Japan and constructed largely in the absence of public awareness, the measures of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) dramatically alter current international legal framework, while introducing the first substantial processes of global internet governance. With complete contempt towards the democratic process, the negotiations of the treaty were exclusively held between industry representatives and government officials, while excluding elected representatives and members of the press from their hearings.
Under the guise of protecting intellectual property rights, the treaty introduces measures that would allow the private sector to enforce sweeping central authority over internet content. The ACTA abolishes all legal oversight involving the removal of content and allows copyright holders to force ISPs to remove material from the internet, something that presently requires a court order. ISPs would then be faced with legal liabilities if they chose not to remove content. Theoretically, personal blogs can be removed for using company logos without permission or simply linking to copy written material; users could be criminalized, barred from accessing the internet and even imprisoned for sharing copyrighted material. Ultimately, these implications would be starkly detrimental toward the internet as a medium for free speech.
January 30, 2012
By J.D Heyes
“The people in charge don’t like the internet. It’s a powerful tool they want to control.” –KTRN
As a warrior for Internet freedom, you helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA by supporting Web black outs by sites like Wikipedia and by contacting your lawmaker to voice your displeasure. So loud was your voice that even the president of the United States sided with you in opposing it.
But don’t take a deep sigh of relief because, after all, we’re talking about a merger of Washington, D.C., and Hollywood here, as well as global interests. After the motion picture industry, its subsidiaries and all “interested parties” have spent nearly $150 million lobbying for some sort of Internet-centric “anti-piracy” bill, you should have known the powers that be would return.
And they have, only this time they are pushing something far more onerous: ACTA, or the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
“Although the proposed treaty’s title might suggest that the agreement deals only with counterfeit physical goods (such as medicines) what little information has been made available publicly by negotiating governments about the content of the treaty makes it clear that it will have a far broader scope and in particular will deal with new tools targeting ‘Internet distribution and information technology’”, says an assessment of ACTA by the watchdogs at the Electronic Freedom Foundation.
“ACTA has several features that raise significant potential concerns for consumers’ privacy and civil liberties for innovation and the free flow of information on the Internet [regarding] legitimate commerce and for developing countries’ ability to choose policy options that best suit their domestic priorities and level of economic development,” says EFF’s assessment.
January 25, 2012
By Heather Callaghan
Many of us breathed a sigh of relief when an overwhelming amount of Americans banned together and voiced their opposition to Congress over both the Stop Online Piracy Act, and Protect Intellectual Property Act.
Sites that dimmed the screen for a day or two have gone back to normal — Facebook users have swapped their anti-SOPA images for their previous profile pictures.
We may have even believed that the postponement of the vote originally scheduled for January 24th was some sort of white flag of capitulation. But that is certainly not the MO of most lawmakers.
While the outcry did get the attention of Congress, they are simply returning unflinchingly back to the drawing board to wait out our attention spans. Articles whirled that SOPA was dead and the bill was pulled when the bill’s sponsor Lamar Smith said in a statement that there would be no further action “until there is wider agreement on a solution.”
Lamar isn’t really listening. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”
Actually, SOPA is set to be reformulated in February. PIPA will be revisited with possible amendments in the coming weeks. Case in point, all is still open and possible — nothing is dead, pulled, or cancelled. If that wasn’t enough to keep us on our toes, a new, similar bill has surfaced.
January 19, 2012
By Andy Greenberg
“Keep the Internet free! Hey congress, what are you so afraid of? People discovering the truth?” –KTRN
Wednesday’s mass protest strike of popular websites including Wikipedia, Reddit, Boing Boing and others against the Stop Online Piracy Act has had its intended effect–at least on one Senator.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who co-sponsored the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) that served as the Senate equivalent of the SOPA bill, has officially withdrawn his support of PIPA and called for more discussion before new copyright legislation is introduced.
“Earlier this year, this bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy. Since then, we’ve heard legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government’s power to impact the Internet,” Rubio wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday morning. “Congress should listen and avoid rushing through a bill that could have many unintended consequences.”
“Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my support for the Protect IP Act,” the statement continued. “Furthermore, I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor. Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”
January 18, 2012
Los Angeles Times
By Andrea Chang and Tiffany Hsu
“This bill is about more than just anti-piracy. It’s about censorship of the Internet.” –KTRN
What would the world be like without the Internet? Fire up your browser and see what you can’t do.
In the first strike of its kind, hundreds of popular sites such as Wikipedia, Reddit and Boing Boing were scheduled to temporarily shut down Wednesday to protest a pair of anti-piracy bills that they say essentially amount to censorship of the Internet.
The prospect of a day without the websites set off a frenzy in the hours leading up to the strike, which was slated to begin Tuesday night, with parents urging their children to do their homework early and tech-savvy users posting instructions for how to access cached Wikipedia pages during the blackout.
“If Wikipedia is going down, I’m going down with it,” wrote Twitter user Mariellesmind, who was among thousands that filled the microblogging site with panicked, profanity-filled tweets.
“Terrified about the Wikipedia outage,” tweeted Los Angeles resident Chandra Moore. “I was told to use an encyclopedia if I have a question, but I won’t even be able to Wiki what one is.”
The Internet’s biggest power players, including Google, Facebook and YouTube, were planning to stay up and running, but the shutdown of the other sites and the ensuing anxiety underscored the breadth and influence of the world’s Internet companies, as well as Americans’ dependence on them.
Strike organizers say the online grass-roots campaign is intended to inform the public about the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, which aim to crack down on foreign websites that traffic in pirated movies, music and counterfeit goods.
Internet companies have broadened the debate, recasting it from one about piracy and digital copyright protection to one about Internet freedom. Calling the bills well intentioned but seriously flawed, they say SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate are threats to free speech that could stifle the Internet economy, drive up legal costs and lead to censorship or the shutdown of some websites.
The proposed legislation “creates a punishing Internet censorship regime and exports it to the rest of the world,” said a statement on Boing Boing, a group blogging site.
January 9, 2012
By Andrew Couts
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chief sponsor of the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA), says that criticisms of the controversial legislation are entirely unfounded, and that the online communities that oppose the bill are illegitimate.
“The criticism of this bill is completely hypothetical; none of it is based in reality. Not one of the critics was able to point to any language in the bill that would in any way harm the Internet. Their accusations are simply not supported by any facts,” said Smith in a statement, quoted by Roll Call.
When asked about the grow opposition to the bill from online communities like Reddit.com, Smith added: “It’s a vocal minority. Because they’re strident doesn’t mean they’re either legitimate or large in number. One, they need to read the language. Show me the language. There’s nothing they can point to that does what they say it does do. I think their fears are unfounded.”
There are so many things just factually wrong about Rep. Smith’s statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. So let’s just take his asinine dismissal from the top, shall we?
First, Rep. Smith says that “not one of the critics” could point to specific language in the bill that would “harm the Internet in any way.” No? What about the 83 Internet pioneers — we’re talking people like Vint Cerf, co-designer of TCP/IP; Jim Getty’s, editor of the HTTP/1.1 protocol standards; Leonard Kleinrock, a key developer of the ARAPANET; in other words, the very people who built the Internet — who say that SOPA (and the Protect IP Act, PIPA), “will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences” because of the bills’ requirement that Internet service providers block domain names of infringing sites.