Infringement on Internet Usage Rights – SOPA Never Really Went Away

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is reportedly moving towards a new back room deal in regard to the Stop Piracy Online Act (SOPA).

For those unfamiliar with the act, here is a description from EFF:

“As drafted, the legislation would grant the government and private parties unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet’s underlying infrastructure. The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to block users’ attempts to reach certain websites’ URLs. In response, third parties will woo average users to alternative servers that offer access to the entire Internet (not just the newly censored U.S. version), which will create new computer security vulnerabilities as the Internet grows increasingly balkanized.

It gets worse: the blacklist bills’ provisions would give corporations and other private parties new powers to censor foreign websites with court orders that would cut off payment processors and advertisers. Broad immunity provisions (combined with a threat of litigation) would encourage service providers to overblock innocent users or even block websites voluntarily. This gives content companies every incentive to create unofficial blacklists of websites, which service providers would be under pressure to block without regard to the First Amendment.

Service providers would be forced to monitor and police their users’ activities as well, threatening the DMCA safe harbors that have been vital to online innovation over the last decade. SOPA gives the government new powers to go after sites that provide information about tools that might be used to bypass the blacklists – even though these are often the same tools used by democratic activists around the world to bypass Internet censorship mechanisms implemented by authoritarian governments like Iran and China.”

Chair of the MPAA, Chris Dodd, has said that he is he is “confident” negotiations for a SOPA revival are in the works.  A statement which ignores the unprecedented Internet blackout protests, which were able to thwart the passage of both SOPA and PIPA, for the time being.

Internet users also took to the streets, in Europe, in massive protests against another rights-infringing act, ACTA.

The MPAA, however, is reluctant to give up on pushing this or similar legislation.  The voluntary “graduated response” agreement is one example, which has been adopted by major American ISPs and is expected to roll out on July 1.  Thousands have been calling on their providers to guarantee that they will never terminate a customer’s account under the new program.  You can urge participating ISPs to make that commitment, at this link.

According to Harvard Professor, Lawrence Lessig, who is an outspoken advocate for net neutrality and Internet Freedom, the fight over SOPA is far from being over.  As appears to now be the case, Lessig points out that while the battle over SOPA may have been won, the bill can resurface at any time under another name.

Q&A With Internet Law Expert Lawrence Lessig

And, so it has.  The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is the latest proposed legislation being considered in congress.

“The Center for Democracy and Technology has some serious concerns with CISPA:

Concerns with CISPA include:

– CISPA has a very broad, almost unlimited definition of the information that can be shared with government agencies and it supersedes all other privacy laws.
– CISPA is likely to lead to expansion of the government’s role in the monitoring of private communications.
– CISPA is likely to shift control of government cybersecurity efforts from civilian agencies to the military.
– Once the information is shared with the government, it wouldn’t have to be used for cybersecurity, but could instead be used for other purposes.”

This is an atrocious bill, which would, for all practical purposes, lead to “significant spying on internet usage and private communications by the government with little to no oversight–and that includes not just domestic law enforcement, but military spying as well.”

David Seaman, of Business Insider, warns that it would be a mistake to assume a bill like this would never wind up on Obama’s desk, after passing both houses of Congress.  People had the same doubts, initially, regarding the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which the president signed on December 31, 2011.

Candice Lanier