Former MPAA CTO who switched sides explains to the White House why SOPA is stupid

You may remember Paul Brigner, the geek who quit his job as CTO of the MPAA to work for its arch-rival net-freedom advocates at the Internet Society, who manage the .ORG top-level domain. He has just filed comments with the White House's IP Czar rubbishing the techniques proposed in SOPA, which contemplated censoring the Internet by tinkering with the domain-name service in the hopes of reducing copyright infringement. At the time that Brigner left the MPAA for ISOC, a lot of us were worried that he'd officially endorsed SOPA and argued in favor of it at Congress. Brigner and ISOC both assured us that he'd had a genuine change of heart, and these comments are the proof in the pudding. As Mike Masnick notes, Brigner was a pretty half-hearted, ineffective SOPA advocate, but he's a rip-snortin', ass-kicking critic of it.

We are also of the opinion that any enforcement attempts – at both national and international levels – should ensure and not jeopardize the stability, interoperability and efficiency of the Internet, its technologies and underlying platforms. The Internet – a network of networks – is based on an open and distributed architecture. This model should be preserved and should surpass any enforcement efforts. For the Internet Society preserving the original nature of the Internet is particularly significant, especially when enforcement is targeting domain names and the Domain Name System (DNS) in general. There are significant concerns from using the DNS as a channel for intellectual property enforcement and various contributions have been made on this issue by both the Internet Society and the technical community. It needs to be highlighted that from a security perspective, in particular, DNS filtering is incompatible with an important security technology called Domain Name Security Extensions or DNSSEC. In fact, there is great potential for DNSSEC to be weakened by proposals that seek to filter domain names. This means that DNS filtering proposals could ultimately reduce global Internet security, introduce new vulnerabilities, and put individual users at risk.

Our second recommendation relates to the legal tools that should be in place in any enforcement design. ISOC would like to stress the absolute need for any enforcement provisions to be prescribed according to the rule of law and due process. We believe that combating online infringement of intellectual property is a significant objective. However, it is equally important that this objective is achieved through lawful and legal paths and in accordance with the notion of constitutional proportionality. In this regard, enforcement provisions – both within and outside the context of intellectual property – should respect the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of individuals and, subsequently, those of Internet users. They should not seek to impose unbearable constitutional constraints and should not prohibit users from exercising their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression.

As a general recommendation, we would like to emphasize our belief that all discussions pertaining to the Internet, including those relating to intellectual property - both at a national and international level - should follow open and transparent processes.

Former MPAA CTO Tells The White House Why SOPA Is The Wrong Approach For IP Enforcement

Vote against CISPA, SOPA and PIPA in 2012

A reader writes, "The Bill of Rights Defense Committee has a list of candidates who are running for Congress who strongly oppose indefinite detention of American citizens and SOPA/CISPA. The link also mentions current incumbents who are working to defend the Internet." Cory

Pro-wrestler boycotts WWE over SOPA support

Sean Morley, AKA Val Venis, a professional wrestler, has informed a fan via Twitter that "#WWE‬ asked me to appear but I just cannot do anything with them for as long as they continue their support of ‪#SOAP‬/#CISPA"

Kick ass, dude. From Techdirt:

While the WWE was never listed on the official Judiciary Committee list of supporters, the organization made many community sourced lists as a supporter of SOPA. Regardless of when and how the WWE came to be supportive of the unpopular bills, this shows that there is a long lasting bitter aftertaste left in the mouths of those who feel betrayed by organizations that supported SOPA and CISPA.

WWE Raw SuperShow One Wrestler Short Due To SOPA Support

Too many lobbyists, not enough strategists

A bit of pithy insight from the latest EDRIgram: "the intellectual property lobby employs too many lobbyists and too few strategists." In other words, Big Content can get lawmakers to do their bidding, even when doing so discredits them and riles up the opposition. (via Beyond the Beyond)

Internet Defense League will spring into action when dumb laws are proposed, guided by the CAT SIGNAL!


Holmes from Fight for the Future sez, "The Internet Defense League is a post-SOPA network of sites that use their reach to defend and improve the web. Because it can sound the alarm quickly to millions of people, people are calling it a 'bat-signal for the Internet'. The league is launching on July 19th, the same night that the new Batman movie. And the plan is to have actual spotlights beaming actual 'cat-signals' across buildings and clouds in cities around the world. We just launched a crowd-funding campaign. Help plan a party or pitch-in to make them happen."

So on Thursday night, as Hollywood’s latest superhero movie opens in theaters for a midnight showing, IDL members in select cities can celebrate the launch around powerful spotlights rented for the occasion. The spotlights will beam the IDL’s “cat-signal” into the stratosphere, across obliging clouds, or onto neighboring buildings.

Plus we've got a bunch of other cool items for league members who donate.

The Internet Defense League - Protecting the Free Internet since 2012

FCC: SOPA is terrible (when Russia does it)

FCC chief Julius Genachowski has slammed the Russian government for considering a law that will make it possible to ban websites in the country for violating nebulous, poorly policed "illegal content" rules. Which is basically what SOPA proposed: "The world’s experience with the Internet provides a clear lesson: a free and open Internet promotes economic growth and freedom; restricting the free flow of information is bad for consumers, businesses, and societies." Preach it, brother! (Thanks, Ben!) Cory

What's wrong with TPP, the son of ACTA

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini has a very good editorial explaining what's wrong with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret trade treaty with punishing copyright provisions that's being negotiated by the USA, repeating the worst sins of ACTA and magnifying them (among other thing, TPP will make implementing the notorious SOPA into a trade obligation for the US).

As Rossini writes, this is no way to make good policy, and undermines the legitimate trade priorities of the US and its partners by entangling them in a dirty, secretive process that has no checks on the excesses of corporate representatives from the entertainment industry.

So, in summary, the USTR has released a public blog post about a secret proposal to expand something – a filtering mechanism on copyright limitations and exceptions – which might have real social, moral, and economic value. And all we know is that the only thing the authors of the proposal really wanted to make public was the fact that no matter what the content was, it was subject to enough international restrictions that it could be effectively gutted. The only thing 21st century about that is they used a blog to tell us about it.

Is the TPP - framed as a "21st century" agreement - the best way to build a 21st century society?

Is your member of Congress on the House Judiciary Committee? We need you to fight the return of SOPA!

As I wrote yesterday, Rep Lamar "SOPA" Smith is trying to sneak through another variation on SOPA in the form of the the Intellectual Property Attache Act, which was steaming through Congress without any public scrutiny or debate.

Now it's begun to stumble, and TechDirt reports that "support for the bill is wavering. Some of the named co-sponsors have made it clear that they're just as unhappy that the bill was being rushed out this way without public comment and were uncomfortable with some of the specifics in the bill -- and that these concerns mean that the bill may actually be delayed."

Many of our American readers will be constituents of the Congresspeople on the House Judiciary Committee, where the Intellectual Property Attache Act originates. If you do, please take a moment to call your Congressperson's constituency office and let them know that this isn't how you want your country's Internet policy made, nohow.

Let The Judiciary Committee Know That Creating A Mini-SOPA Without Public Participation Is Unacceptable

SOPA IS BACK: Lamar Smith trying to quietly revive SOPA and cram it down the world's throats

It's not just ACTA that is being snuck back into law through undemocratic means. Lamar Smith, the powerful committee chairman and corporatist archvillain who tried to ram through SOPA last year is now bent on reviving his slain monster and unleash it upon the earth.

The new bill, the Intellectual Property Attache Act, will create a class of political officers who will see to it that all US trade negotiations and discussions advance SOPA-like provisions in foreign law. And as we've seen with other trade deals, one way to get unpopular measures into US law is to impose them on other countries, then agree to "harmonize" at home.

True to form, Smith is trying to cram his law onto the books without any substantive debate or scrutiny, just as he tried with SOPA. When you're serving corporate masters instead of the public interest, the less debate, the better.

The specifics of the bill appear to go further than the version in SOPA. It is clear that the bill itself is framed from the maximalist perspective. There is nothing about the rights of the public, or of other countries to design their own IP regimes. It notes that the role of the attaches is: to advance the intellectual property rights of United States persons and their licensees;

The bill also "elevates" the IP attaches out of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and sets them up as their own agency, including a new role: the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. Yes, we'll get another IP Czar, this time focused in the Commerce Department.

When even the USTR is recognizing the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright, to have Congress push a bill that basically ignores limitations and exceptions and only looks to expand Hollywood's special thugs within the diplomatic corp. seems like a huge problem.

Lamar Smith Looking To Sneak Through SOPA In Bits & Pieces, Starting With Expanding Hollywood's Global Police Force

Hollywood's secret, aggressive copyright lobbying campaign in Canada

Michael Geist sez,

Over the past few years, the Motion Picture Association - Canada, the Canadian arm of the MPAA, has recorded nearly 100 meetings with government ministers, MPs, and senior officials. While their lobbying effort will not come as a surprise, last October there were several meetings that fell outside the norm. On October 18, 2011, MPA-Canada reports meeting with Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, Foreign Minister John Baird, and Industry Canada Senior Associate Deputy Minister Simon Kennedy, all on the same day. These meetings occured less than three weeks after the introduction of Bill C-11 and the decision to sign ACTA, and only eight days before SOPA was launched in the U.S.

To get a sense of how rare these meeting were, this is the only registered meeting John Baird has had on intellectual property since Bill C-11 was introduced and ACTA was signed by Canada. Similarly, since the introduction of Bill C-11, James Moore has only two intellectual property meetings listed - this one with MPA-Canada and one in March 2012 with the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (in fact, Moore had only three meetings on intellectual property in all of 2011. Those meetings were with MPA-Canada, the Canadian Recording Industry Association, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce). Even the Simon Kennedy meeting was a rarity as he has had multiple meetings with pharmaceutical companies, but only two (MPA-Canada and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives) that appear to have included copyright. Given how unusual it is for a single lobby group to gain access to two of Canada's leading cabinet ministers and a senior department official on the same day, it begs the question of how they did it.

The MPAA's Secret Lobby Campaign on Bill C-11 and a Canadian SOPA

Internet governance shifting from civil society to government, and getting less free

James from the New America Foundation sez, "I wanted to share this blog post on why civil society voice is essential in Internet governance and some efforts shift control to government-only entities:"

While Indian courts are attempting to control content domestically, a simultaneous effort from India’s national government is focused on increasing governmental control of the global Internet. Last October, India submitted a proposal to the United Nations for the creation of a UN Committee for Internet-related policies (CIRP). CIRP would be a government-only body tasked with overseeing Internet governance and standards setting.

This would alter the current landscape of international Internet governance, which is a multi-stakeholder process including civil society as well as government actors. The US-based public policy organization Center for Democracy and Technology describes the current model as "bottom-up, decentralized, consensus-driven approach in which governments, industry, engineers, and civil society" contribute to policy outcomes. The distribution of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and top level domains, for example, is managed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization. Organizations like Internet Engineering Task Force and the World Wide Web Consortium work together with engineers to develop standards.

Giving Civil Society a Voice in Internet Governance (Thanks, James!)

SOPA fighters handily fund billboard outside Lamar Smith's office


Holmes sez, "A crowd-funded, Texan-themed billboard for Lamar Smith (R-TX) is currently emblazoned across the Texas sky. The billboard says 'Don't Mess with the Internet', and it just took flight this morning right outside the San Antonio offices of SOPA-sponsor Lamar Smith. The crowdfunding campaign went so well that in just two days in March we raised enough for two billboards, so there's one in up in Austin too (on 'Lamar Blvd', appropriately enough). There’s even a t-shirt, available from Breadpig, Reddit co-founder’s philanthropic merch site. Proceeds support Fight for the Future and its latest project, the Internet Defense League."

SOPA author Lamar Smith (R-TX) gets a crowd-funded billboard... right outside his San Antonio office. (Thanks, holmesworcester!)

Princess awards First Amendment lawyer "Defender of Internet" medal for SOPA fight

Marvin Ammori's recently-bestowed freedom bling. Note the Nyan Cat.


Constitutional law expert Marvin Ammori, one of the First Amendment scholars along with Larry Tribe who explained how SOPA would violate the First Amendment, shares a wonderful story with Boing Boing. Snip from his blog post:

When I was quite young, I saw the first Star Wars movie and believed that, if I took part in a great cause, it would end with a medal ceremony and a princess conferring the medal. It has finally happened.

Last night, I received a medal from Princess Tiffiniy Ying Cheng of Fight for the Future, representing the “committee for the Defenders of the Internet.” Bestowed upon me was the Nyan Cat Medal of Internet Awesomeness, the “highest honor known to Internet Defenders.” I could not be more honored.

Princess Tiffiniy’s organization was one of the leaders in the Battle of SOPA. She and her partner Holmes Wilson are pretty amazingly brilliant–they were the people who organized the Free Justin Bieber campaign, led American Censorship Day on November 16, and were among the leaders organizing the January 18 Blackout. Many people pulled together from an array of communities to fight SOPA–Redditers, Wikipedians, civil libertarians, entrepreneurs, artists, venture capitalists, tech executives, consumer electronics makers, tech bloggers–alongside millions of people who just love the Internet and hate Internet censorship, from technologically advanced Wookiies to technologically challenged Ewoks. Many awesome people were involved in leading, coordinating, and taking the time to fight SOPA.

Read the rest of his story, and see a larger version of the pic: "Medal Ceremony in Real Life: for Internet Awesomeness." [ammori.org] Fast Company also gave him props.

Nerd fatalism, nerd determinism: the problem with nerd politics

My latest Guardian column is "The problem with nerd politics," and it discusses the twin evils of "nerd determinism" and "nerd fatalism" -- both convenient excuses for people who care about technology policy to avoid politics.

In "nerd determinism," technologists dismiss dangerous and stupid political, legal and regulatory proposals on the grounds that they are technologically infeasible. Geeks who care about privacy dismiss broad wiretapping laws, easy lawful interception standards, and other networked surveillance on the grounds that they themselves can evade this surveillance. For example, US and EU police agencies demand that network carriers include backdoors for criminal investigations, and geeks snort derisively and say that none of that will work on smart people who use good cryptography in their email and web sessions.

But, while it's true that geeks can get around this sort of thing – and other bad network policies, such as network-level censorship, or vendor locks on our tablets, phones, consoles, and computers – this isn't enough to protect us, let alone the world. It doesn't matter how good your email provider is, or how secure your messages are, if 95% of the people you correspond with use a free webmail service with a lawful interception backdoor, and if none of those people can figure out how to use crypto, then nearly all your email will be within reach of spooks and control-freaks and cops on fishing expeditions.

What's more, things that aren't legal don't attract monetary investment. In the UK, where it's legal to unlock your mobile phone, you can just walk into shops all over town and get your handset unlocked while you wait. When this was illegal in the US (it's marginally legal at the moment), only people who could navigate difficult-to-follow online instructions could unlock their phones. No merchant would pay to staff a phone-unlocking role at the corner shop (my dry-cleaner has someone sitting behind a card-table who'll unlock any phone you bring him for a fiver). Without customers, the people who make phone-unlocking tools will only polish them to the point where they're functional for their creators. The kind of polish that marks the difference between a tool and a product is often driven by investment, markets and commercialism.

The problem with nerd politics

Yochai Benkler explains SOPA

The Guardian: Blueprint for Democratic Participation from The Guardian and The Paley Center for Media on FORA.tv

Here's Yochai Benkler -- author of Wealth of Networks, one of the most important books written about how the Internet changes society -- describing the fight to stop SOPA with laser clarity and precision, cutting through the DC/media consensus that "Google killed SOPA" or "Wikipedia killed SOPA" and showing instead how the ecosystem of people who care about networks collaborated to do the unprecedented.

The Guardian: Blueprint for Democratic Participation (via Michael Geist)