Law professors explain what's wrong with SOPA, constitutionally speaking

James sez, "The Stanford Law Review Online has just published a piece by Professors Mark Lemley, David S. Levine, and David G. Post on the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. In Don't Break the Internet, they argue that the two bills -- intended to counter online copyright and trademark infringement -- 'share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet's extraordinary growth, and for free expression.'

These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country's tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.

Don't Break the Internet (Thanks, James!)

Congressional SOPA hearings: no opponents of the bill allowed

As the House of Representatives opens hearings on SOPA, the worst piece of Internet legislation in American history, it has rejected all submissions and testimony from public interest groups and others who oppose the bill.

Irony Alert: The House is holding hearings on sweeping Internet censorship legislation this week -- and it's censoring the opposition! The bill is backed by Hollywood, Big Pharma, and the Chamber of Commerce, and all of them are going to get to testify at the hearing.

But the bill's opponents -- tech companies, free speech and human rights activists, and hundreds of thousands of Internet users -- won't have a voice.

Don't Censor Censorship Opponents: Let Us Testify!

How SOPA will attack the Internet's infrastructure and security

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is continuing its series of in-depth analysis of the Stop Online Piracy Act, the most dangerous piece of Internet legislation ever introduced, which is set to be fast-tracked through Congress by Christmas. Today, EFF's Corynne McSherry and Peter Eckersley look at the way that SOPA attacks innovation and the integrity of Internet infrastructure.

In this new bill, Hollywood has expanded its censorship ambitions. No longer content to just blacklist entries in the Domain Name System, this version targets software developers and distributors as well. It allows the Attorney General (doing Hollywood or trademark holders' bidding) to go after more or less anyone who provides or offers a product or service that could be used to get around DNS blacklisting orders. This language is clearly aimed at Mozilla, which took a principled stand in refusing to assist the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to censor the domain name system, but we are also concerned that it could affect the open source community, internet innovation, and software freedom more broadly:

* Do you write or distribute VPN, proxy, privacy or anonymization software? You might have to build in a censorship mechanism — or find yourself in a legal fight with the United States Attorney General.

* Even some of the most fundamental and widely used Internet security software, such as SSH, includes built-in proxy functionality. This kind of software is installed on hundreds of millions of computers, and is an indispensable tool for systems administration professionals, but it could easily become a target for censorship orders under the new bill.

* Do you work with or distribute zone files for gTLDs? Want to keep them accurate? Too bad — Hollywood might argue that if you provide a complete (i.e., uncensored) list, you are illegally helping people bypass SOPA orders.

* Want to write a client-side DNSSEC resolver that uses multiple servers until it finds a valid signed entry? Again, you could be in a fight with the U.S. Attorney General.

Hollywood's New War on Software Freedom and Internet Innovation

STOP SOPA, SAVE THE INTERNET

Tiffiny from Fight for the Future sez,

Google knows it. Viacom knows it. The Chamber of Commerce knows it. Internet democracy groups know it. BoingBoing knows it. But, the Internet hasn't been told yet -- we're going to get blown away by the end of the year. The worst bill in Internet history is about to become law. Law is very real here in the United States and legal language is often different than stated intentions -- this law would give government and corporations the power to block sites like BoingBoing over infringing links on at least one webpage posted by their users. Believe the EFF, Public Knowledge, Google when they say this bill is about much more than copyright, it's about the Internet and free speech everywhere.

The MPAA, RIAA, Hollywood knows that they have been flying in CEOs of as many companies as possible, recruiting people to get petition signups at malls in California, and here's the big point-- they know they have gotten their message through to Congress -- the worst bill in Internet history, the one where government and their corporations get unbelievable power to take down sites, threaten payment processors into stopping payment to sites on a blacklist, and throw people in jail for posting ordinary content is about to pass before the end of this year. The only thing that is going to stop Hollywood from owning the Internet and everything we do, is if there is a big surprise Internet backlash starting right now.

PROTECT IP (S. 968)/SOPA (HR. 3261) creates the first system for Internet censorship - this bill has sweeping provisions that give the government and corporations leeway and legal cover for taking down sites "by accident," mistakenly, or for NOT doing "enough" to protect the interests of Hollywood. These bills that are moving very quickly through Congress and can pass before Christmas aim to give the US government and corporations the ability to block sites over infringing links posted by their users and give ISPs the release to take any means to block peoples' sites, including slowing down your connection. That's right, some say this bill is a workaround to net neutrality and is bigger than net neutrality.

This is the worst piece of Internet legislation in history - the lawmakers who have been sponsoring (Leahy, Lamar Smith, Conyers) this bill need to be shamed by the Internet community for wasting taxpayer dollars on a bill that would break the very fabric of the Internet, create an Internet blacklist, kill jobs and great startup companies, huge blogs, and social networks.

Read the rest

SOPA: US House of Reps copyright bill proposes national censorship, attacks on hosting services, Twitter, YouTube

PROTECT-IP is a US Senate bill that establishes a draconian censorship and surveillance regime in America in the name of protecting copyright. Its House version, SOPA, has just been introduced, and it's even worse than PROTECT-IP. Much, much worse:

As with its Senate-side evil sister, PROTECT-IP, SOPA would require service providers to “disappear” certain websites, endangering Internet security and sending a troubling message to the world: it’s okay to interfere with the Internet, even effectively blacklisting entire domains, as long as you do it in the name of IP enforcement. Of course blacklisting entire domains can mean turning off thousands of underlying websites that may have done nothing wrong. And in what has to be an ironic touch, the very first clause of SOPA states that it shall not be “construed to impose a prior restraint on free speech.” As if that little recitation could prevent the obvious constitutional problem in what the statute actually does.

But it gets worse. Under this bill, service providers (including hosting services) would be under new pressure to monitor and police their users’ activities. Websites that simply don’t do enough to police infringement (and it is not at all clear what would qualify as “enough”) are now under threat, even though the DMCA expressly does not require affirmative policing. It creates new enforcement tools against folks who dare to help users access sites that may have been “blacklisted,” even without any kind of court hearing. The bill also requires that search engines, payment providers (such as credit card companies and PayPal), and advertising services join in the fun in shutting down entire websites. In fact, the bill seems mainly aimed at creating an end-run around the DMCA safe harbors. Instead of complying with the DMCA, a copyright owner may now be able to use these new provisions to effectively shut down a site by cutting off access to its domain name, its search engine hits, its ads, and its other financing even if the safe harbors would apply.

Disastrous IP Legislation Is Back – And It’s Worse than Ever