France is on the verge of killing its ill-starred HADOPI system, whereby people who are accused of multiple acts of copyright infringement are disconnected from the Internet, along with everyone in their homes. After two years, HADOPI has spent a fortune and has nothing to show for it. HADOPI was enacted thanks to enormous pressure from American entertainment companies and the US Trade Representative, and was the first of the "three strikes" rules to make it into law (New Zealand and the UK also both capitulated to Pax America shortly after).
But the new president Hollande is determined to continue to have France play the role of crash-test dummy for America's failed copyright policy. As a condition of dismantling HADOPI, his government has proposed enacting the worst provisions of SOPA, the US copyright proposal that America roundly rejected last year. Under SOPA.fr, the French government will make intermediaries (payment processors, search engines, web hosts) liable for infringement, with broad surveillance and censorship powers.
Tiffiniy from the SOPA-killing activist group Fight for the Future sez,
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Remember when we worked together and beat back internet censorship and SOPA, and changed the world earlier this year? 2012 is a historic year for our basic rights on the web - the year the internet came alive and fought for free speech and freedom. Sites like Boing Boing depend on an open and free web, and so doesn't much of what you love and do on the web.
Unfortunately, Congress still only cares about the opinions of likely voters. If everyone who cares about internet freedom stays at home this election, Congress will bring back SOPA. That's why we've been working on a campaign to turn out a massive number of internet users at the polls, and we're asking people to join us tomorrow for Internet Voter Registration Day, right before a bunch of state deadlines, by pledging that you'll vote, and register if you need to: internetvotes.org.
Washington insiders thought SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA were all 'certain to pass.' How did the internet win against those bills? Because people stood up to protect free speech and the transformative power of the internet in their lives.
Let's dramatically increase the number of people egging each other on to vote, which has shown to get people to the polls. The first thing we're asking people to do is to get our friends to pledge and register to vote starting Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day (right before a bunch of state deadlines with time to send in your forms).
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the son of ACTA, a secretive copyright and trade treaty being negotiated by the Pacific Rim nations, including the USA and Canada. As with ACTA, the secretive negotiation process means that the treaty's provisions represent an extremist corporate agenda where due process, privacy and free expression are tossed out the window in favor of streamlined copyright enforcement. If this passes, America will have a trade obligation to implement all the worst stuff in SOPA, and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini and Kurt Opsahl explain:
TPP article 16.3 mandates a system of ISP liability that goes beyond DMCA standards and U.S. case law. In sum, the TPP pushes a framework beyond ACTA and possibly the spirit of the DMCA, since it opens the doors for:
* Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
* Requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material
* ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement
* Efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders on an allegation of copyright infringement.
Incredibly, it gets worse:
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If the copyright maximalists have their way, the TPP will include a “side-letter,” an agreement annexed to the TPP to bind the countries to strict procedures enabling copyright owners to insist material are removed from the Internet. This strict notice-and-takedown regime is not new—in 2004, Chile rejected the same proposal in its bi-lateral trade agreement with the United States.
This anonymously funded movie satirizing the corruption of the copyright system in the USA has been viewed more than 10,000,000 times. The creators, who maintain the website political-prostitution.com, explain that "the U.S. Government is making a major push to enforce its laws abroad with complete disregard for sovereignty of other nations in order to extradite so-called 'criminals' to the US where they will be tried for their 'crimes' in American court."
Ars Technica's Timothy Lee spoke to some of the creators:
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On Wednesday, Ars talked to an individual behind the video. He said he and a friend paid for the video out of their own pockets. They are hoping to "raise awareness" of what they view as America's repressive copyright policies.
The video has three scenes. In the first, the "American Motion Picture Association" announces it has hired "Senator Chris Rodd" (clearly references to the MPAA and its chairman, former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)) to represent Hollywood. In the second scene, police carry out a military-style raid on a London home. The final scene takes place in an "undisclosed location." The kid arrested in London is now in chains, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a hood over his head. The young soldier guarding the prisoner asks an older American in a suit what the suspect did, and looks incredulous when he's told that he's been arrested for copyright infringement.
Obviously, the video is over-the-top. Nothing exactly like the incident depicted has happened in real life. The US government doesn't subject copyright defendants to the same harsh treatment as suspected terrorists.
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.
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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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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 Indiaâ€™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.