Mar 182012
Internet Law
by Samantha Lowell

Media Moguls At It Again

SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

Undeterred by the failure of SOPA and PIPA, media giants have forged an agreement with Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other major U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) to police their own networks in an effort to catch digital pirates and stop illegal file-sharing. Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), said most of the participating ISPs should start implementing the program by July 1. This agreement follows the closure of file-sharing giant Megaupload and increased pressure by the MPAA and RIAA to crack down on piracy.

Under the new program, called “graduated response,” customers found to be illegally downloading copyrighted material will first receive one or two notifications from their ISPs, essentially stating that they have been caught. If the illegal downloads continue, subscribers will receive a new notice requesting acknowledgement that the notice has been received. Subsequent offenses can then result in bandwidth throttling and even service suspension

The RIAA and its counterparts,including fellow media giant, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had managed to forge the deal between major ISPS and the RIAA and the MPAA through in a highly secretive meeting last June–with the apparent support of the White House.

While undoubtedly piracy has cost media giants money, just how much it has cost is increasingly called into question. Figures provided by MPAA/RIAA lobbyists to Congress turn out to have been provided by the highly conservative lobbying group The Cato Institute– which was unable to provide any reliable or exact source or provenance for its figures.

An Uphill Battle

This is merely one more development in a long war between the tech sector in Silicon Valley and the media industry. After the White House and state and federal lawmakers showed support for the industry, leaders at the RIAA and MPAA believed they had the momentum to get antipiracy legislation passed in Congress.

They were wrong of course and the MPAA/RIAA have faced an uphill battle: The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) were run off the rails in Congress, largely by the tech sector. A similar motion, the ACTA treaty, though passed in the EU parliament, now faces an ever-shrinking chance of confirmation as signatory nations begin to have second thoughts-as well as a growing spate of legal challenges.

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Feb 062012
Internet Law
By Samantha Lowell
SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it. ACTA is even worse, and could enable the creation of police states around the world.

Internet activists and civil rights groups worldwide are alarmed at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), one of the harshest crackdowns on internet piracy, which was signed by 22 nations in 2011 and awaits ratification by the European Union Parliament. Negotiated and signed in secret, ACTA was signed on October 1 2011 by Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States. On January 29, 2012, the European Union and 22 of its member states signed as well, bringing the total number of signatories to 31. If ACTA is ratified by six member states, the convention will become law; however, lack of ratification by the EU would effectively kill the measure.

If ratified, ACTA would criminalize sharing of copyrighted material on an unprecedented scale, and even certain signatories have begun to criticize several provisions of the treaty as being excessively broad in their scope and extreme in enforcement provisions. ACTA, as written, would criminalize such acts as sharing a newspaper article or uploading a video of a party where copyrighted music is played. Violators of any breach would be subject to criminal charges. The ACTA committee would have carte blanche to change its own rules and sanctions with no legal oversight.

Legal scholars and privacy rights advocates object that ACTA would not only allow legal authorities to monitor personal online communications in secrecy and requiring ISPs to closely monitor suspected trademark violators, without court recourse, but that those falsely or erroneously accused would be without legal recourse.

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Jan 252012
Internet Law
SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

A message for our readers, received from Donny Shaw of

Now that Congress has had time to process last week’s internet blackout, a consensus has emerged: SOPA and PIPA are toxic for politicians, and going anywhere near them could cost them their re-election.

Freedom is winning.

Together, we’ve done something amazing– never have so many people stood up to defend a free and open internet.  Here’s a San Francisco Chronicle article about how it all came together: The Largest Online Protest in History Started Here.

And here’s Carl Franzen at Talking Points Memo:

“Behind the scenes, Hill staffers from both sides of the aisle confirmed to TPM that the entire piracy debate had become so ‘toxic’ that virtually no lawmakers were likely to be ready to re-engage it anytime soon.”

Experienced Congress-watchers are telling us they’ve never seen anything like this.

Internet users, tech companies, and non-profits joined together to defend fundamental rights on the internet. To a lot of elites in Congress and the corporate world, the internet is just something that lazy teenagers use to spam people with pictures of photoshopped unicorns. The blackout showed that the peer-to-peer internet is about empowerment, and that when we work together we can defeat the corrupt politics of Washington D.C.

The New York Times and Talking Points Memo have both published good articles on how the web blackout was organized.

For months, four senators were the only force blocking passage of PIPA/SOPA. They even promised to filibuster the bill back when most politicians were against them. We need to make sure we support and vote for leaders like them who are willing to going to go out on a limb and oppose SOPA before it was popular to do so. It’s great that we pressured all those other shlubs into opposing web censorship, but these guys deserve the real cred and our support: Click here to donate (scroll down).

What’s next?  The Fight is not over, already new threats to web freedom are starting to emerge (particularly in Europe) and we’re getting ready.  Stay tuned, and for more updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Thank you again for standing up for a free and open internet!

- Donny and Fight for the Future

Fight for the Future is a non-profit helping to organize the historic strike against the web censorship bills SOPA and PIPA on our site – go there for a list of websites that are striking and more information.

Jan 202012
Internet Law
by Samantha Lowell, Guest Editorialist
SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world

SOPA and PIPA are the victims of industrial hubris and overreach, of arrogant proponents who  didn’t even bother to consider the extremism of their own work, much less that anyone would ever oppose them. Our Congressional representatives are choosing to acknowledge that endorsing these acts in a contentious election year is political suicide, so internet activists can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Yet troubling questions remain.

Why were they supporting these bills in the first place? Most claims by  the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and other proponents of SOPA claimed a loss of revenue and jobs in the entertainment industry, but there was no credible data to back it up. Legislative fact sheets distributed by industry lobbyists such as former Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) cite numbers like $250 billion and 750,000 jobs lost annually to piracy, but nobody seemed to know exactly where these numbers came from. While piracy has of course cost the media industry money, were the losses really as serious as portrayed? As it turns out, the figures SOPA backers such as the MPAA and lobbyists cite come seem to be coming from a variety of biased sources, the most notably damning of which is the highly pro-business lobbying group/think tank, the CATO Institute….and anyone knows never to trust statistics coming from anyone with an axe to grind.

And  if even the MPAA  and others admit openly that eliminating piracy is a technical impossibility, whyo why the sudden push for SOPA and PIPA?  In the wake of second thoughts on SOPA and PIPA by the House and Senate, Congressional watchers and media analysts have begun to point to a less noble motive than protecting Intellectual Property rights: Eliminating competition.

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Jan 192012
Internet Law

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) Have been Stopped… For Now

An Editorial Update, by Staff Editor PK

A message posted by Wikipedia, following the lifting of their website’s blackout.

Thank you.

The Wikipedia blackout is over — and you have spoken.

More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge. You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. Your voice was loud and strong. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.

For us, this is not about money. It’s about knowledge. As a community of authors, editors, photographers, and programmers, we invite everyone to share and build upon our work.

Our mission is to empower and engage people to document the sum of all human knowledge, and to make it available to all humanity, in perpetuity. We care passionately about the rights of authors, because we are authors.

SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows. What’s happened in the last 24 hours, though, is extraordinary. The Internet has enabled creativity, knowledge, and innovation to shine, and as Wikipedia went dark, you’ve directed your energy to protecting it.

We’re turning the lights back on. Help us keep them shining brightly.

January 18th of 2012, truly is a day that will live in Infamy for the history of the internet. It was the day that millions of people from across the United States, and from around the world stood up and told the American government, that they will not tolerate the passing of two bills that had the very real potential to cause harm to the internet, the world’s greatest resource of human knowledge. On January 18th, thousands of websites went dark in protest of the legislation which would give governments and private companies, the ability to shut down websites and tamper with the very inner workings of the internet, in an attempt to stop copyright infringement and electronic piracy of protected content.

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Jan 162012
Internet Law
an Editorial by Gene Turnbow
SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

SOPA and PIPA could effectively destroy the Internet as it exists today, along with entire economies built on it around the world.

You should know what SOPA is by now and why it’s been pushed so strongly by the megalithic owners of intellectual property rights such as Sony, Disney, Marvel Comics, the RIAA, the MPAA and others, and so strongly opposed by the people who make their living by helping others communicate – companies like Google, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook (and by pretty much everybody else as far as I can tell).  You should also probably be able to put together the fact that the various lawsuits launched against file sharers and the services they use have collectively tanked, because the courts have generally ruled that  an IP address isn’t enough by itself to identify a specific person. This ruling slammed the door on any future pay-up-or-else lawsuits.  Instead of going away and thinking things over, the media giants are instead seemingly trying to rewrite the Constitution – you know, that pesky 14th Amendment that guarantees that we’re to presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, SOPA is the “Stop Online Piracy Act”, a bill that until yesterday was churning its way through Congress on the way to becoming law. PIPA is its evil twin in the Senate – it stands for “Protect Intellectual Property Act”, and it’s so close to SOPA in its wording that it may as well be the same bill. Fortunately cooler heads have prevailed, including President Obama, who made a statement that he would not support either bill in its current form, saying that he wasn’t about to sign anything that protected intellectual property while at the same time tampered with the fundamental operational principles that make the internet work in the first place.

At the heart of the controversy is the provision that violating web sites could be forcibly taken down with prior notice or debate until the owner(s) could prove in a court of law that they were innocent of wrongdoing.  As if that wasn’t evil enough, the manner in which they’d be taken off the ‘net should clinch it for you: search engines and the DNS system (“Domain Name Servers”) would be manipulated by United States law enforcement to make it impossible to reach what the big property rights companies designated as web sites that infringe on their intellectual property rights.   Unfortunately, the entire rest of the world uses the same name server system, so this would effectively destroy the Internet should it go into effect. As BoingBoing wrote: “Making one link would require checking millions (even tens of millions) of pages, just to be sure that we weren’t in some way impinging on the ability of five Hollywood studios, four multinational record labels, and six global publishers to maximize their profits.”

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