Law in the Internet Society
Making revisions, draft will be finished soon.
But not fast enough. As it is now clear that I was correct in my original comments below, you've got more than a little bit of revising to do. In fact, as I said (not making a difficult prediction of any kind) this was never legislation that was going to go anywhere, but rather an election-cycle fund-raising device concocted between former-Senator Chris Dodd, now MPAA's chief, and Senator Patrick Leahy to fund the Democratic Senatorial campaign coffers using Google's money. Even just going back now and explaining what happened instead of talking about the ridiculous provisions of the Hollywood wish list that not only aren't going to happen this time but are now not going to happen next time either, would be progress. Better still would be explaining why, no matter what happens, the DNS stuff will never happen. That requires getting past the silly literal analysis of silly legislative provisions, too, and looking at government-to-government relations concerning the Net overall.

PROTECT IP Act: Using Domain Name Tactics to Enforce Intellectual Property Rights

-- By YanFu - 13 Nov 2011

In May 2011, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced S.968, The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, also known as the Protect IP Act.

Did you check to see that the Thomas link was good? Thomas searches are deleted 30 minutes after they are made, so your link was broken within minutes of your making it.

 The bill's goal is to give the government and copyright holders an extra weapon to fight websites that contain copyright-infringing content.  The Act is a re-write of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) introduced by Leahy in 2010, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee but never made it onto the Senate floor.

Private corporations and other rights holders want the ability to shut down unauthorized websites where Internet users could download movies, television shows, music, and video games.  Websites offering pirated digital content record about 53 billion hits per year.  Many of these sites are hosted outside of the United States.  The PROTECT IP Act gives the Department of Justice the power to seek an injunction or restraining order against an allegedly infringing website.  The government can then use that order to force search engines, certain Domain Name System providers, and advertising companies to unlist the target web site and stop financial transactions with it. An operator of a domain name server would be compelled to “ take the least burdensome technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent the domain name described in the order from resolving to that domain name's Internet protocol address.” Links or users that type in the website's domain name into their browsers would not reach it, but the website would still be able to be accessed using its IP address. The bill also creates a private right of action. A copyright holder can seek an injunction blocking "financial transaction providers" and "internet advertising services" from doing business with the targeted site.

There are serious issues with this legislation. PROTECT IP infringes on due process. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or host (such as YouTube? ) must promptly comply with a take-down notice regarding potential infringement. However, the alleged infringer has the option to send a counter-notice if she has a good faith belief that the content was taken down unfairly. If the content owner takes no further action, then the ISP or host is then required to put the material back up within two weeks.

PROTECT IP lacks the due process protections of the DMCA.

This might have been the place to put the real observation, instead of all the solemn repetition of the content of legislation that you could have linked to easily. (For example, at the CRS summary if your Thomas link hadn't been broken.) The real point is that the movie industry, which is the primary party in interest here, has given up on the deal it made in the DMCA, for safe harboring the ISPs and search engines, and is now trying to take away their statutory due process, the safe harbor. That explains both the foolish aggressiveness of their bill, and the reasons for its political impossibility.

Once a site has been identified as an infringer, payment processors and advertising networks are forced to cut off service, effectively blacklisting the site before it has been convicted of any wrongdoing. The bill does not require notice or a proper hearing before action is taken. This places an undue burden on those associated with the site to prove their innocence. Unlike under the DMCA, where the host has the incentive to put the content back up pending further action and review, website proprietors won't even get a chance to respond until they've already been shut down.

Furthermore, when domain name tactics are used against websites with a mix of lawful and unlawful content, the entire website is affected. This broad approach contrasts with the notice-and-takedown regime of the DMCA, which is used to target specific infringing content. This could also lead to censorship of the Internet, even where infringement isn't taking place. For example, a video content host such as YouTube? might have to approve videos in advance or risk legal action. YouTube? may err on the side of caution in order to protect itself. Research has shown that, where heavy legal liability is placed on companies, employees tasked with self-censorship have a strong incentive to over-censor. PROTECT IP would have a chilling effect on free speech. For instance, an author may be targeted even when his use of another's work counts as “fair use.” However, the lack of protections in the PROTECT IP Act combined with the potentially prohibitive cost of litigation may ensure that, even when the targeted website proprietor could win in court, the site remains blacklisted. Some parties may also take advantage of the Act to censor negative information about them. For example, in 2008, the Church of Scientology issued a copyright violation claim against YouTube under the DMCA after an interview video with Tom Cruise appeared on the site. Claiming that the video came from a longer recruiting pitch for new members, and that it was pirated and edited from copyright material, the Church demanded the removal of the video. If the PROTECT IP Act passes, other groups could use its provisions to remove information that is critical of them. This could be a highly effective legal tactic against defendants without the financial resources or will to fight back.

There are also potential economic harms resulting from the passage of PROTECT IP. Compliance with the Act would require additional spending by Internet companies to hire staff and implement technologies to monitor and censor content. This would create additional financial burdens and legal risks for start-ups and could prove to be an obstacle for the formation of new companies. Furthermore, since the system encourages self-censorship, ISPs that also create online content may use it to harm their competitors by strictly enforcing potential infringements against them.

The government may have legitimate interests in fighting unlawful internet activity, but the costs and risks of the PROTECT IP Act must be seriously weighed against any additional benefits it has over current legislation.

This draft is an exercise in unrealism. It spends most of its time repeating details of the bill that could be communicated with much greater brevity followed by a citation, and offering truthful but largely irrelevant arguments about the shotgun-style overinclusiveness of the language. It does not offer realistic analysis of either the industrial landscape or the political situation. It mentions COICA but doesn't point out that the movie industry always has a bill, that the Democrats (and even the House Republicans when in control) always take bribes for initiating, but only rarely will or can complete. In the present instance—where the movie industry is essentially trying to renege on the DMCA safe-harbor deal, thus ensuring the opposition of the Google-Verizon syndicate and the other telecomms and searchers, along with the NGOs and most of the Silicon Valley Viet Cong— neither the Senate version of this nonsense nor the House version (SOPA) will move. In a Presidential election year such stuff is easy to stop even without such a formidable collection on the other side. But many bribes can be collected on all sides, and the movie industry will have its marker down with whoever controls Congress next time around. Writing about this as though it were bad legislation is sort of tautological: it's supposed to be bad legislation.

What you don't say on the DNS issue is probably more important than what you do say, anyway. The DNS seizures recently engaged in by DoJ on behalf of the movie industry bribers have caused trouble to the White House in international Internet policy, because they remind everyone that the root servers are still under US despotic control. Heavy-handed extraterritorialism in the DNS context on behalf of one tiny US industry sector helps to destabilize a regime which favors the US completely and leaves everyone else out in the cold.

You might also have said something about the technical uselessness of DNS censorship, too. Without the plainly unconstitutional requirement that search engines not find things, DNS censorship doesn't even prevent casual traffic, let alone serious efforts by frequent users, all of whom know the IP addresses of the places that help them share.

Overall, this draft is a fairly clear illustration of what goes wrong when legal analysis is not combined with political and technical understanding. The clear route to the improvement of the next draft is to get the other two pillars underneath the revised structure.

The Response

Towards the end of 2011, opposition to PIPA and SOPA began to ramp up. Social media was bombarded with (often ill-informed) pleas and protests against the bill. On November 16, 2011, as SOPA was being discussed in committee, many Internet companies participated in "American Censorship Day" and displayed black banners that said "STOP CENSORSHIP."

On January 18, many websites, most prominently Reddit and the English-language version of Wikipedia, participated in a temporary “blackout” to protest SOPA and PIPA. Google, which did not shut down, showed solidarity by altering its logo and linking visitors to information about the bill as well as a petition to be sent to Congress. Twitter was flooded with tweets about SOPA, PIPA, and the blackout. Google's petition garnered more than 4.5 million signatures.

As protest intensified, 19 Senators, mostly Republicans, announced their opposition. At least seven were former co-sponsors of the bill. The legislation stalled in Congress. A floor vote, initially scheduled for January 24, was postponed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged Senator Leahy, PIPA's main sponsor, to compromise. In the House, further voting on SOPA was placed on hold.

What This Means (Briefly discuss DMCA and safe harbor, Telecom opposition, why PIPA wasn't going to pass) The temporary defeat of PIPA/SOPA has been hailed as a victory of protesters and "people power" over Big Media. While public sentiment appeared to be overwhelmingly against the bills, the fight should be characterized more as Media versus Telecom. The movie industry



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r14 - 04 Sep 2012 - 22:02:20 - IanSullivan
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