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Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Old 11-21-10, 12:57 PM
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Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Besides the problem of government censorship, this proposed law is also way too vague about what it covers, and it doesn't even require that someone commit a crime in order for their website to be shut down. It's a slap in the face of due process and rule of law. This is a bad idea all around.


http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/...nsorship-bill/

Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

By Sam Gustin

November 18, 2010

Who says Congress never gets anything done?

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would give the Attorney General the right to shut down websites with a court order if copyright infringement is deemed “central to the activity” of the site — regardless if the website has actually committed a crime. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) is among the most draconian laws ever considered to combat digital piracy, and contains what some have called the “nuclear option,” which would essentially allow the Attorney General to turn suspected websites “off.”

COICA is the latest effort by Hollywood, the recording industry and the big media companies to stem the tidal wave of internet file sharing that has upended those industries and, they claim, cost them tens of billions of dollars over the last decade.

The content companies have tried suing college students. They’ve tried suing internet startups. Now they want the federal government to act as their private security agents, policing the internet for suspected pirates before making them walk the digital plank.

Many people opposed to the bill agree in principle with its aims: Illegal music piracy is, well, illegal, and should be stopped. Musicians, artists and content creators should be compensated for their work. But the law’s critics do not believe that giving the federal government the right to shut down websites at will based upon a vague and arbitrary standard of evidence, even if no law-breaking has been proved, is a particularly good idea. COICA must still be approved by the full House and Senate before becoming law. A vote is unlikely before the new year.

Among the sites that could go dark if the law passes: Dropbox, RapidShare, SoundCloud, Hype Machine and any other site for which the Attorney General deems copyright infringement to be “central to the activity” of the site, according to Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group that opposes the bill. There need not even be illegal content on a site — links alone will qualify a site for digital death. Websites at risk could also theoretically include p2pnet and pirate-party.us or any other website that advocates for peer-to-peer file sharing or rejects copyright law, according to the group.

In short, COICA would allow the federal government to censor the internet without due process.

The mechanism by which the government would do this, according to the bill, is the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS), which translates web addresses into IP addresses. The bill would give the Attorney General the power to simply obtain a court order requiring internet service providers to pull the plug on suspected websites.

Scholars, lawyers, technologists, human rights groups and public interest groups have denounced the bill. Forty-nine prominent law professors called it “dangerous.” (pdf.) The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch warned the bill could have “grave repercussions for global human rights.” (pdf.) Several dozen of the most prominent internet engineers in the country — many of whom were instrumental in the creation of the internet — said the bill will “create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation.” (pdf.) Several prominent conservative bloggers, including representatives from RedState.com, HotAir.com, The Next Right and Publius Forum, issued a call to help stop this “serious threat to the Internet.”

And Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the world wide web, said, “Neither governments nor corporations should be allowed to use disconnection from the internet as a way of arbitrarily furthering their own aims.” He added: “In the spirit going back to Magna Carta, we require a principle that no person or organization shall be deprived of their ability to connect to others at will without due process of law, with the presumption of innocence until found guilty.”


Critics of the bill object to it on a number of grounds, starting with this one: “The Act is an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment,” the 49 law professors wrote. “The Act permits the issuance of speech suppressing injunctions without any meaningful opportunity for any party to contest the Attorney General’s allegations of unlawful content.”

Because it is so ill-conceived and poorly written, the law professors wrote, “the Act, if enacted into law, will not survive judicial scrutiny, and will, therefore, never be used to address the problem (online copyright and trademark infringement) that it is designed to address. Its significance, therefore, is entirely symbolic — and the symbolism it presents is ugly and insidious. For the first time, the United States would be requiring Internet Service Providers to block speech because of its content.”

The law professors noted that the bill would actually undermine United States policy, enunciated forcefully by Secretary of State Clinton, which calls for global internet freedom and opposes web censorship. “Censorship should not be in any way accepted by any company anywhere,” Clinton said in her landmark speech on global internet freedom earlier this year. She was referring to China. Apparently some of Mrs. Clinton’s former colleagues in the U.S. Senate approve of internet censorship in the United States.

To be fair, COICA does have some supporters in addition to sponsor Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vermont) and his 17 co-sponsors including Schumer, Specter, Grassley, Gillibrand, Hatch, Klobuchar, Coburn, Durbin, Feinstein, Menendez and Whitehouse. Mark Corallo, who served as chief spokesperson for former Attorney General John Ashcroft and as spokesman for Karl Rove during the Valerie Plame affair, wrote Thursday on The Daily Caller: “The Internet is not at risk of being censored. But without robust protections that match technological advances making online theft easy, the creators of American products will continue to suffer.”

“Counterfeiting and online theft of intellectual property is having devastating effects on industries where millions of Americans make a living,” wrote Corallo, who now runs a Virginia-based public relations firm and freely admits that he has “represented copyright and patent-based businesses for years.” “Their futures are at risk due to Internet-based theft.”

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major record labels, praised Leahy for his work, “to insure [sic] that the Internet is a civilized medium instead of a lawless one where foreign sites that put Americans at risk are allowed to flourish.”

Over the course of his career, Leahy has received $885,216 from the TV, movie and music industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
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Old 11-21-10, 02:00 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

This must be why the Pope approved condom use, 'cuz we all just got fucked.
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Old 11-21-10, 02:11 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

I've heard this is too complex for the average person to understand.
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Old 11-21-10, 03:34 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

You have to love it when the government and corporate America team up to give everyone a good, hard DP.
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Old 11-21-10, 03:54 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
I've heard this is too complex for the average person to understand.


You may have a point. This is not related to the tiered internet though, so maybe not.

This has been fought and defeated a few times. I'm not sure where it stands now as to the entire process of being passed, but it's not good news.
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Old 11-21-10, 04:54 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

As quickly as it started, Sen. Ron Wyden (from my own state) has vowed to stop it:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/201...hip-bill.shtml

From what I've heard locally, he's going to force it through some loophole into a holding period where most bills get forgotten.
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Old 11-21-10, 05:27 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

The fucking recording and motion picture industries have way to much power in Washington. Most copyright laws are way over the top on penatlies. I cant see how they are even constitutional. 5 years prison and 250k fine is ridiculous.
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Old 11-21-10, 05:48 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by BKenn01 View Post
The fucking recording and motion picture industries have way to much power in Washington. Most copyright laws are way over the top on penatlies. I cant see how they are even constitutional. 5 years prison and 250k fine is ridiculous.
Rapist get off with less. So do kid touchers. And rich athletes that kill someone.
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Old 11-21-10, 07:09 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

But rich athletes amuse me. I don't want them in jail, I want to be entertained.
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Old 11-21-10, 07:58 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Boba Fett View Post
As quickly as it started, Sen. Ron Wyden (from my own state) has vowed to stop it:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/201...hip-bill.shtml

From what I've heard locally, he's going to force it through some loophole into a holding period where most bills get forgotten.

Thanks for posting that.

I don't want this to be "forgotten" - I want it to be done away with. If it's just "forgotten" then there's always a chance it could clear those bureaucratic hurdles and come back when no one is expecting it.

Also, if this does become law, I think that it will be used for sinister uses that have nothing to do with protecting copyright. In particular, I think the government may use it to try to shut down websites with political opinions that the government doesn't like.

Last edited by grundle; 11-21-10 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:01 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

What government has ever used its power to censor those who speak about against it? Come on, now.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:02 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by BKenn01 View Post
The fucking recording and motion picture industries have way to much power in Washington. Most copyright laws are way over the top on penatlies. I cant see how they are even constitutional. 5 years prison and 250k fine is ridiculous.

Also, the newer, longer lengths of copyrights, and the fact that they keep getting renewed again and again, is also contrary to the original intent. The Constitution says that copyrights are to last for a limited period of time in order to encourage people to create things. That doesn't require extensions and repeated renewals again and again and again - it just requires enough time so they can make a good amount of money, so they have incentive to keep making more new stuff. For example, it's ridiculous that Disney gets to keep renewing copyrights on work whose creators are all dead.
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Old 11-21-10, 08:44 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Eh, I don't have a problem with the ability to renew copyrights. The likenesses can still be used for parody purposes.
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Old 11-22-10, 01:24 AM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by grundle View Post
Thanks for posting that.

I don't want this to be "forgotten" - I want it to be done away with. If it's just "forgotten" then there's always a chance it could clear those bureaucratic hurdles and come back when no one is expecting it.

Also, if this does become law, I think that it will be used for sinister uses that have nothing to do with protecting copyright. In particular, I think the government may use it to try to shut down websites with political opinions that the government doesn't like.
I agree with grundle. Copyright law has gotten out of whack in this country. Mostly do to corporatism in government.

I can't believe I'm agreeing with grundle.
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Old 11-22-10, 03:59 AM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Eh, I don't have a problem with the ability to renew copyrights. The likenesses can still be used for parody purposes.
Couldn't it be considered a form of corporate protectionism?

@grundle

Thanks for posting this.
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Old 11-22-10, 10:44 AM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Eh, I don't have a problem with the ability to renew copyrights. The likenesses can still be used for parody purposes.
The problem here isn't that authors can renew their copyrights. It's that Congress keeps retroactively extending the length of copyright without requiring the copyright holder to do anything to get that extension. Charles Ardai, the guy who runs Hardcase Crime, a publishing house that reprints old pulp novels, has talked on numeorus occassions about books he wants to put out, but he can't because the author left his estate a mess and there's no one to approve the reprints. It's absolutely absurd that people who've been dead since the 1920s still have books under copyright.

My solution: every five years, the author can renew his copyright, but doing so requires him to pay a fee that doubles each time. This will tie the length of copyright to the popularity of the work -- a book that was published as a paperback original twenty years ago and never reprinted since will quickly go into the public domain, while the Tolkien estate will be willing to spend a few thousand dollars for the 65 year renewal.
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Old 11-22-10, 12:41 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
As a creator in several mediums, I feel copyrights should be permanent unless sold by the owner or his estate, without exception.
So you think there should be some guy out there who never has to work just because his great^n grandmother wrote Frankenstein?

There should be some way of straightening out problems like the one you've mentioned (no relatives/owners left alive? Auction of the copyright might be a much simpler answer, and it would also tie the cost of obtaining the copyright to the popularity of the work).
If there's no one left alive who owns the copyright, who auctions it off and gets the money? For that matter, how do you determine that an auction needs to take place? Let's say my great-uncle Bob wrote some sci-fi stories back in the '30s and made me his literary executor. I look at the stories, figure there's no market for reprinting them, and then forget about them. Then when I die no one inherits the copyrights and no one even knows to auction them off. Under your system, the story remains in copyright and out of print forever. In a sane system, however, the story enters the public domain eventually and gets published on Gutenberg.
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Old 11-22-10, 05:16 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
FUCK YES, if Frankenstien's still selling enough to make it so (and it certainly is).
Is it?
Mary and Percy Bysshe can suck it.

If you don't agree 100% with that, I'm damned glad you don't work in entertainment/copyright law (ummm...you don't, do you?).
And I'm quite glad you have nothing to do with Constitutional law, since you seem to be completely ignorant of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8:

Originally Posted by Copyright Clause
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
And no, I don't believe that Conde Nast should keep me from enjoying the pulp writings of Lester Dent.
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Old 11-22-10, 06:33 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
FUCK YES, if Frankenstien's still selling enough to make it so (and it certainly is). If you don't agree 100% with that, I'm damned glad you don't work in entertainment/copyright law (ummm...you don't, do you?).
No, I would never work for such bastards. Instead, I donate to the EFF to combat their rapaciousness. And I volunteer for Librivox and Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders. And I'm working on translating medieval texts into modern English, which I plan on releasing under a Creative Commons lisence. Oh, and I make a bit of money on the side by selling PD books in the Kindle store.

As for the rest, there's no easy answer. Perhaps, if, after 25 years (random figure), the copyright would revert to public domain, but only after a prerequired set of rules about contacting possible inheritors/original owners were exhausted.
Why should the government spend money doing that? The onus should be on the copyright holder to assert that he's still around an interested in maintaining his control of his works.

As for who gets the money, should a copyright auction occur? Why, it would subsidize the copyright offices of the government, naturally, hence, possibly making your taxes* a tad lower (though we both know that scenario of lower taxation is unlikely, at best).
It's not going to be The Great Gatsby going up for auction -- it's going to be obscure old Gold Medallion and Dell 10 Cent Paperbacks that are only of interest to fans of pulp novels. If you want to generate revenue, go with my plan which essentially functions as a tax on intellectual property.

I don't have all the answers, and do not pretend to.....but your method is a no-go for me as an artist/creator of copywritten works dating back to 1981.
Mine don't date so far back, but I too am a creator of copyrighted work. But, you know, I'd be perfectly happy if the stories I published in Busty Beauties* while in college go into the public domain.

*Yes, I've had porrn published by Larry Flynt. It's too bad my proudest accomplishment in life can't go on my resume.
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Old 11-23-10, 12:00 AM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

A good read relevant to the issue of copyright:

Melancholy Elephants
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Old 11-28-10, 02:51 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Let's keep in mind that none of the operators of these 70+ websites have been convicted of any crimes:


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/27/te...rent.html?_r=1

November 26, 2010

U.S. Shuts Down Web Sites in Piracy Crackdown

By BEN SISARIO

In what appears to be the latest phase of a far-reaching federal crackdown on online piracy of music and movies, the Web addresses of a number of sites that facilitate illegal file-sharing were seized this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

By Friday morning, visiting the addresses of a handful of sites that either hosted unauthorized copies of films and music or allowed users to search for them elsewhere on the Internet produced a notice that said, in part: “This domain name has been seized by ICE — Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court.”

In taking over the sites’ domain names, or Web addresses, the government effectively redirected any visitors to its own takedown notice.

“ICE office of Homeland Security Investigations executed court-ordered seizure warrants against a number of domain names,” said Cori W. Bassett, a spokeswoman for ICE, in a statement. “As this is an ongoing investigation, there are no additional details available at this time.”

Among the domains seized were torrent-finder.com and those of three sites that specialized in music: onsmash.com, rapgodfathers.com and dajaz1.com. TorrentFreak, a news blog about BitTorrent — a file-sharing system that has tended to elude the authorities because it is decentralized — said that at least 70 other addresses had been seized, most belonging to sites related to counterfeit clothing, DVDs and other goods.

On Friday, torrent users were already discussing new sites that had popped up to serve them.

The takedown notices are similar to those that went up on nine sites in June as part of an initiative against Internet counterfeiting and piracy that the agency called Operation in Our Sites.

In announcing that operation, John T. Morton, the assistant secretary of ICE, and representatives of the Motion Picture Association of America called it a long-term effort against online piracy, and said that suspected criminals would be pursued anywhere in the world. “American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates every day, seven days a week,” Mr. Morton said. “Criminals are stealing American ideas and products and distributing them over the Internet.”

Ms. Bassett would not comment on whether the latest raids were part of Operation in Our Sites, and a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the major recording labels, declined to answer questions.

The new seizures also come as a new bill, the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, is making its way through Congress. The bill, which was approved by a Senate committee last week, would allow the government to shut down sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities.”

Critics have said the law is too broad, and could affect sites that have nothing to do with file-sharing; the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online civil liberties group, has called it “an Internet censorship bill.” Waleed A. GadElKareem, who operated Torrent Finder from Egypt, said his site was shut down on Thursday without any notice.

“My Web site does not even host any torrents or direct-link to them,” Mr. GadElKareem wrote in an e-mail, adding that he only links to other sites. “I am sure something is wrong!”

He added that his server was up and running at a different address.
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Old 11-28-10, 05:34 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by grundle View Post
Let's keep in mind that none of the operators of these 70+ websites have been convicted of any crimes:
While I do not yet know enough about this to defend it (or otherwise), the standard you imply as appropriate above isn't particularly realistic. The police don't wait for a conviction before they shut down a chop shop, a crack house, an illegal brothel, a numbers parlor or a meth lab.
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Old 11-28-10, 06:08 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by jfoobar View Post
While I do not yet know enough about this to defend it (or otherwise), the standard you imply as appropriate above isn't particularly realistic. The police don't wait for a conviction before they shut down a chop shop, a crack house, an illegal brothel, a numbers parlor or a meth lab.
None of the scenarios you put forward are Constitutionally protected. Free speech is.
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Old 11-28-10, 06:30 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by NORML54601 View Post
None of the scenarios you put forward are Constitutionally protected. Free speech is.
How is exchanging pirated music or selling bootleg DVDs "free speech"?
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Old 11-28-10, 06:51 PM
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Re: Web Censorship Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Originally Posted by DVD Guy ATL View Post
How is exchanging pirated music or selling bootleg DVDs "free speech"?
Thank you.
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