Closing down the net

This is an article you should read, perhaps ironically published by The Daily Telegraph in London, as big a media company as one could find.

Spurred on by big media companies, the latest effort by governments to stamp out piracy comes in the form of two bills from the US Congress: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA).

According to these acts, if a US site (or a foreign site that has its domain name registered in the US) is found to be ‘committing or facilitating the commission’ of copyright infringment, then, on the request of a rights holder, it is subject to seizure in a way that many scholars believe violates due process, depriving people of a fair hearing and suppressing free speech.

It gets worse. If the targeted site is not based in the US and thus cannot be seized, then the following actions must occur:

1) US sites and search engines must remove all links to the foreign site
2) US advertising services must no longer serve ads linking to the site, or display ads on the foreign site
3) US payment networks must cease all transactions between the foreign site and US customers
4) US service providers to block access to the foreign site via DNS blacklisting

In other words, a rights holder would be able to accuse a website anywhere in the world of facilitating piracy simply because a user posted a comment linking to a file sharing site, and the site would completely vanish from the internet. Anyone using any US-based search engine (which includes pretty much everyone in the UK) would not be able to find it, and anyone in the US would discover that typing in its URL would lead to nowhere.

If I understand this right, what I have just done I could no longer legally do with repercussions almost impossible to determine before the fact.

Update: It seems that there is quite a lot of re-assessment going on in the American Congress. This is a story about Senator Marco Rubio withdrawing his support which contains the following description of the Bill:

SOPA would allow the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order to shut down access to offshore Web sites. Once the court order is granted, the attorney general could force U.S. Internet service providers to block the sites.

In addition, according to CNET the bill could end up requiring ISP’s to monitor what web sites individuals visit and block sites that may be infringing on copyright.

The bill would essentially create a blacklist of potentially millions of websites that may or may not be engaged in copyright infringement regarding movies, television, and music.

So, a site like YouTube or Wikipedia could be blacklisted due to alleged copyright infringement.

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54 Responses to Closing down the net

  1. Infidel Tiger says:

    So youtube and any site that links to youtube is completely rooted then.

  2. Lazlo says:

    The legal tests would be intent and knowingly breaching the law. I expect wiki could overcome these in court if necessary..

  3. Lazlo says:

    If I understand this right, what I have just done I could no longer legally do with repercussions almost impossible to determine before the fact.

    No Steve. You have not linked to any content that could breach copyright.

  4. Steve Kates says:

    So the article in the Telegraph is not copyrighted so I am free to reproduce. So where does it matter and what would I not be allowed to do?

    It also does seem to me that whatever it is, if they pass this legislation in the US, and it allows the Government to control content, we will see something along the same lines here in no time flat.

  5. JamesK says:

    Even Obummer is backing away from this.

    The significantoth members of both parties have voiced strong opposition and the judiciary subcommittee that came up with this was under the radar and I believe SOPA at least has zero chance now.

  6. Lazlo says:

    Steve, I confess to not studying SOPA. But I assume it builds upon long-standing copyright laws.

    It is presumably extending these laws to cyberspace, and why not, but intent must always prevail.

    Am very ignorant on the details here, but totally unfazed by wiki going off the air for a day..

  7. Lazlo says:

    The article in the Telegraph is not copyrighted, unless it displayed the copyright symbol (can’t find it right now on my keyboard, dammit!) or made a statement about copyright.

    IE you need to assert copyright when you publish. Open any book and look at the first page..

  8. Jarrah says:

    “It is presumably extending these laws to cyberspace”

    It is doing much, much more than that. I was going to post a link to a thorough analysis, but Gab has beaten me to it. Check it out.

  9. spot says:

    Steve, quoting and linking to the Daily Telegraph would be okay.

    But it does say, “In other words, a rights holder would be able to accuse a website anywhere in the world of facilitating piracy simply because a user posted a comment linking to a file sharing site.”

    So, as a hypothetical, let’s say that yesterday when some here were talking about nothing being on TV, and thank god for torrents, and the first season of The Wire? Let’s say that someone said, “I never did see that first season of The Wire,” and someone provided a link to a torrent and said “well, download it here” or even “have a hunt around sumotorrent, I saw it there last week” …

    If the rights holder to The Wire wanted this site disappeared over that, from what I understand you’d pretty much be rooted.

  10. Jarrah says:

    “The article in the Telegraph is not copyrighted, unless it displayed the copyright symbol”

    That’s incorrect. Copyright is automatic, unlike patents and trademarks. It doesn’t need to be registered, or even published.

  11. spot says:

    That looks like a good link, Gabs – thanks. I’ll go have a read.

  12. spot says:

    Copyright is automatic, unlike patents and trademarks. It doesn’t need to be registered, or even published.

    So don’t you dare f**kin’ link to Jeremy’s cats or he’ll f**kin’ end you..

  13. wreckage says:

    This is akin to shutting down the phones to an area code because someone there pirated music over the phone. It’s absurd.

  14. Steve Kates says:

    Gab – Thanks for the link. I can’t say I followed the text of the article all that well, but this seemed clear enough to me:

    More likely, I suspect that legislators will let one bill fail gracefully and then intentionally confuse the matter until the other bill can slip through under the radar. Legislators have the odd belief that once a bill is passed it disappears.

    I find it hard to disagree with those arguing that both bills could be exploited to censor foreign internet sites. Censoring of foreign sites being one of the signature policies of China, I think that the largely bipartisan backlash I’ve seen is fully justified. I also think that some aspects of the bill, such as the ‘punishment first, appeal second’ approach, which is very much in the spirit of ‘guilty until proven innocent,’ resonate as wrong with a wide band of Americans on both sides of the aisle.

    So, while I didn’t see some of the specific loopholes I’ve heard mentioned, the takeaway is that there are definitely plenty of ways both bills could be exploited in the name of censorship, both foreign and domestic. And there are enough loopholes that no simple editing session is going to fix these bills.

  15. m0nty says:

    The article in the Telegraph is copyrighted. It’s at the very bottom of the page: “© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012”. The issue is whether the quote is considered fair use or not. Considering you have quoted 271 out of 820 words, which is a third of the article, it is pushing it a little. Quotes should generally be a tad shorter than that.

    SOPA is ridiculous, of course. Legislating against freedom on the Internet always doomed to failure. PIPA is a valiant attempt to combat rampant content theft by sploggers, but ultimately it is as useless as SOPA. Far more has been accomplished by Google already in removing such rubbish from their indexes. I would support a bill that legitimises what Google does (i.e. protects it from litigation) in its ongoing crusade against spammers and sploggers, but PIPA is too broad and could be abused in other ways.

  16. Jarrah says:

    “because someone there pirated music over the phone”

    It’s worse than that. It only has to be alleged.

  17. Fleeced says:

    I remember our early days as an ISP, we used caller-ID for security. We got a nasty letter from the government telling us we weren’t allowed to look at this info if customers requested us not to – but we couldn’t turn it off – it was up to Telstra to do that. But it didn’t matter – we weren’t allowed. It was an all or nothing type deal.

    Government is useless with technology.

  18. wreckage says:

    Indeed. My point being, and I think we agree on this, is that the Internet is a communications medium. You can’t black-out a region because someone there was accused of a crime; not speech, not phones, not mail, not ISPs.

    That this is being proposed not for counter-terrorism but for copyright protection just makes it more absurd.

  19. wreckage says:

    Government is useless with technology.

    This should be a mandatory preamble to any and all proposed communication, IT, and copyright policy or policy documents.

  20. AJ says:

    The issue is whether the quote is considered fair use or not.

    Fair use and fair comment aren’t the coverall people on the internet think they are. The terms are far more restrictive than most people think and more importantly it is a defence. The Telegraph could still sue Kates and it would be up to him to prove his breach of copyright was fair comment. This isn’t an academic point. It is the reason why commerically released documentaries pay or otherwise obtain permission to use archival footage, film clips or snippets of music, even though it should all fall under fair use doctrine.

  21. Fleeced says:

    Restricting ISP’s in this fashion is like closing down Telstra because someone swears on the telephone. Censorship is bad, mmm’kay?

  22. Gab says:

    Ironic. The internet was created as a means of communication linking people in different locations. Now it’s all going backwards.

  23. Gab says:

    Some SOPA co-sponsors remove their name from the bill.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71589.html

  24. WadeJ says:

    It’s a pretty scary bill. Thankfully the president is against it and Sen Ron Wyden has had a hold on the bill for months. The movie studios and content owners have such a fierce lobbying force that the battle is still going, but with google showing a blackout page today and urging their users to contact their congressmen I think the worst parts of the bill will be removed.

    High level view of what’s wrong with it here:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/interview-sen-ron-wydens-fight-to-save-the-internet/2011/08/25/gIQAqnHG6P_blog.html

  25. perturbed says:

    Change you can believe in!

  26. spot says:

    It’s a pretty scary bill. Thankfully the president is against it

    Has he promised to veto it if it gets through congress? Or is he just kind of voting ‘present’ for now..?

  27. Jacques Chester says:

    Steve, I confess to not studying SOPA. But I assume it builds upon long-standing copyright laws.

    It is presumably extending these laws to cyberspace, and why not, but intent must always prevail.

    The article in the Telegraph is not copyrighted, unless it displayed the copyright symbol (can’t find it right now on my keyboard, dammit!) or made a statement about copyright.

    IE you need to assert copyright when you publish. Open any book and look at the first page..

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. You understand neither copyright law (hint: you don’t need to assert it) nor the structure and effects of SOPA/PIPA.

    Shoo. China beckons.

  28. Jarrah says:

    What I find truly incredible is how cheaply politicians can be bought.

    There’s good reason for their interest in protecting the interests of big content companies—big campaign donations. Leahy has received $371,806 in individual and political action committee contributions from the television, motion picture, and recording industries since 2007—Time Warner has written him $62,150 in checks alone, according to Open Secrets. Smith is a favorite contribution target of the television and cable industry, his top source of campaign contributions over the last two years, accounting for nearly 10 percent of his campaign warchest donations—$133,050 from 2009 to 2011. That’s two times what computer and Internet companies contributed over that term. In the run-up to his reelection campaign this year, TV, music, and film companies have contributed another $88,800 to Smith through individual and political action committee contributions, with Clear Channel (Smith’s biggest benefactor) leading the way at $23,000 total so far this election cycle.

    Conyers is also a darling of the media industry, with $84,000 in contributions from 2009 to 2010, and $21,000 so far toward his pending re-election campaign. The recording industry especially likes Conyers, having given him $135,000 over the course of his career in direct campaign contributions through individual and PAC donations. Right after the PRO-IP Act of 2008 passed, Disney, Time Warner, Sony, and Viacom wrote him checks (as did Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, and Google), according to MapLight.

    http://arstechnica.com/

  29. . says:

    Scum, sub human scum.

  30. AJ says:

    It gets better after they quit congress: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/18/chris_dodds_paid_sopa_crusading/singleton/

    Though sleazy and grotesque, it was therefore entirely unsurprising when it was announced last March that Dodd would “be Hollywood’s leading man in Washington, taking the most prestigious job on K Street”: Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), “whose perks include a $1.2 million-a-year salary and getting to attend the Academy Awards ceremony.”

  31. thefrollickingmole says:

    Dont forget, piracy makes hollywood usustainable…

    Tom Cruise has had to take a severe pay cut from his usual $25 million fee for the film.

    My sympathy meter just imploded..

    Dont forget the music industry.. we are still paying a “piracytax” on blank CDs to keep them going…

    I have downloaded exactly 2 movies off the net, both unavailable in Oz.

    But Im way past sick of waiting a year or more for a series to hit Austraia, or paying for a video that is damaged and unwatchable.

    This featherbedding of the “creative” indistry is getting beyond a joke. 70+ year copyright?, shutting down websites on allegations only?, its a sick joke.

  32. Nato says:

    SOPA has been shelved for the moment thanks to a popular outcry

    I wonder at the lag between introduction of the bill and the mainstream reaction. It’s been bouncing around for a while but it’s only now, 3 months later, that Wikipedia, the established media etc jump on the bandwagon.

    Curious.

  33. Helen Armstrong says:

    So if the mad scientists at the UEA called in IP infringement on the posting of all those global warming emails that clearly demonstrated what a hoax it all was, would the USA shut down all links?

    What about Wikileaks?

  34. thefrollickingmole says:

    Helen Armstrong

    What an interesting idea…
    How would government documents “leaked” in Australia go?

  35. . says:

    Dont forget the music industry.. we are still paying a “piracytax” on blank CDs to keep them going…

    Please elaborate. I find the fee that pubs have to pay to the music industry for NOT having music completely absurd and contrary to natural justice.

    Don’t tell me there is another scam in all of this.

  36. C.L. says:

    Corrupt Democrat icon and alleged restaurant rapist, Chris Dodd, says websites protesting SOPA are abusing their power.

  37. hzhousewife says:

    and what was our NBN supposed to be for ??

  38. thefrollickingmole says:

    .

    Heres the Wiki on it…. yes its still blacked at the moment..

    Heres a Canadian story on the rort.Canadian users again face an increase in the cost of blank CDs, as the Copyright Board has increased levies on them by 38%. The raise was authorized in response to rises in music compression and increases in songwriter royalties.

    This link here is a 2001 paper by the rent seekers association outlining their long war against thier customers.
    This SOPA thing isnt really new, its just the latest attempt.

  39. papachango says:

    Blank CDs are so early 2000s – do they also impose a levy on iPods, portable hard drives, PCs, USB sticks and other digital storage devices?

  40. badm0f0 says:

    What I find truly incredible is how cheaply politicians can be bought.

    Not particularly incredible if you think about the quality of the product.

  41. Helen Armstrong says:

    If music and movie people want to stop piracy, they should make the price low enough so people cant be bothered pirating.

    That said I copy all my CD’s for in the car because the originals get so shaken and scratched after a while (rough dirt roads) that they are unusable. I also put them on a little gadget thingy that plays back through FM, then you dont have to cart so much bulk around with you. Obviously they are also on my PC to enable tis to happen. Does that make me a pirate?

    Frolliking Mole if the leaker is the owner of the IP (as is often the case I believe) and he has leaked it, then is there any infringement? OTH if the leaker is not the owner AND it was done with out their consent (thus news, not propaganda) I believe there would be infringement. But Im not a lwayer.

  42. Viva says:

    Having experienced how complex copyright laws can completely stymie access to learning materials and references in the educational sphere, I tremble at the effect their strict application would have on the internet. It would no longer be the greatest information resouce in the history of our little universe.

  43. hzhousewife says:

    Someone somewhere that I read recently predicted that on security reasons alone, the internet would digest itself and become unusable by about 2030. This will just bring the date forward.

  44. Gab says:

    “Has he [Obama] promised to veto it if it gets through congress? Or is he just kind of voting ‘present’ for now..?

    Will American voters get Gillarded too?

    I am a undergraduate student in mechanical engineering at Missouri S&T and from what I have observed over the last few days is, If SOPA or PIPA are passed by congress and obama vetos them he will most likely get reelected in 2012 by energizing the youth by becoming “the savior of the internet” or something along those lines. It would be reasonable to assume that if he vetoed SOPA or PIPA now to get reelected he would just ram them through in the beginning of his second term.

    (h/t Instapundit)

  45. spot says:

    Thanks for that, Gabs. This is a funny one, SOPA, in that it’s got prominent detractors from both the Left and the Right. Would that Australians be able to come together like that in opposition to Labor’s promised mandatory internet filter.

  46. spot says:

    An interesting point:

    Q: What does the proposed SOPA (“Stop Online Piracy Act”) legislation have in common with gun control?

    A: Both would punish the innocent for the bad acts of a guilty few.

    “You do not protect honest online content producers from pirates by breaking the internet for the innocent.”

  47. Winston Smith says:

    I feel the Republicans need to be getting prepared if Obama gets back in. Surely there are grounds to impeach him if he tries to destroy the US economy?

  48. Gab says:

    “Surely there are grounds to impeach him”

    No they’re aren’t any grounds for that, you racist.

  49. spot says:

    Also: “Raaaaacist!”

  50. Winston Smith says:

    Gab:
    Say what?

  51. Boris says:

    bona fide there SOPA is a means to enforce existing laws. However it is too blunt and people are backing away from it.

    Good.

  52. Gab says:

    Winston, you know perfectly well any criticism of Obama is racist. Just ask the Love Media.

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