Thursday, November 17, 2011

Congress Tries To Break the Internet...yet again...

Breaking radio silence to remind you that the things we take for granted are now under constant assault, and not just the things Occupy Wall Street care about.  For instance, there's an odious piece of "piracy" legislation worming its way through Congress (the PROTECT-IP Act in the Senate, and the infinitely more odious SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House of Representatives), and forget about illegally sharing videos, if you've ever shared a link to one of those videos, this is a cartoon piano aimed squarely at your head.  But don't take my word for it...


PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

(from the video page)
Tell Congress not to censor the internet NOW! - fightforthefuture.org/pipa

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting "creativity". The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites-- they just have to convince a judge that the site is "dedicated to copyright infringement." 

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill. 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that's for a fix that won't work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

As with anything involving new media and the entertainment industry, what's on the table is aggressive and regressive, and as usual, they're going after you and me, because we're only consumers and we can't be trusted.  Social media and search engines would have to be actively censored to prevent anything that even smells like infringement. You know how Justin Bieber got discovered by singing cover songs on Youtube? Those type of shenanigans would get you five years in prison under the proposed laws. And as tempting as some of you probably find that, there's no way we should let that happen.

And of course, there are the unintended consequences, because if internet censorship legislation is famous for anything, it's for not being thought through or even exhibiting a basic understanding of how technology works. Because once there's an easy-to-abuse legal mechanism to get a song or a movie scrubbed from the record, what would stop a cult or a "dirty tricks" political group from using it against critics or whistleblowers?

There's no upside here. This is a bad law, badly written, presumably written by the type of boardroom lawyers who don't give two craps about people as long as they get paid. Handing this power to the government is dark and nasty enough, but handing it to privately-held industry groups is just infernal. If they're not stopped now, it's the death of liberty...all because of their dark fantasies about some kid trying to watch a Harry Potter movie without paying.

This type of thug-rule demands a grass-roots push back just to prove that American democracy works.  Get on the horn to your Congresspeople.

Edit @ 6:45: The first day of the hearing happened today, and Katherine Oyama lived up to the company's mantra of "do no evil."  However, she was the only witness against the proposed legislation invited to testify before committee, while five witnesses in favor of the bill are up next. This feels like a fraud and smells like a fraud. Will it quack like a fraud? We shall see...