Tear down the Great Firewall of America before it even gets built

Submitted by C B Wright on

Let's talk about copyright for a second.

I am a firm believer in copyright. I appreciate that there are laws that exist that protect me as an artist. It is because I believe in copyright that I distribute my work using a Creative Commons license—it is my ownership of my work, and the legal protections that come with the recognition of that ownership, that gives me the not just the right, but the authority to use Creative Commons.

Copyright law is, at its core, a good thing. It is what gives Free Software licenses like the GPL the power to dictate the terms of use. But copyright law, like any other kind of law, can be abused, and it has been. I've mocked the abuse of copyright in the computer industry for fifteen years—I'm not blind to its weaknesses.

But any abuse of copyright you think you've seen in your lifetime is going to pale in comparison to what will happen if Congress passes either the PROTECT IP Act, which is being considered in the senate, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, which is being considered in the House of Representatives.

Here's a little video, courtesy of americancensorship.org, that explains what the music and movie industries are trying to do:

The powers the government wants to have—the powers the MPAA and RIAA want to get the government to use on their behalf—are much, much too broad. There are no checks and balances, and there is no clear path forward if someone finds that their site has wrongly been targeted because someone, somewhere, mis-identified content as “infringing” when it was either owned by the site owner, or was used legitimately either through licensing or fair use provisions.

And, unfortunately, there is historical precedent for a site owner to wake up one morning only to discover his or her site was taken down through a DMCA notice because someone incorrectly decided the music file, book, comic, movie, or podcast contained infringing content. Already with the DMCA it can be a struggle to assert your legal ownership over content because a webhost is required by law to take down a site any time someone sends a DMCA notice. Under the new proposed laws, it goes much further than that. Your site doesn't get taken down by your webhost (who you can, explain the situation, and get your site put back up again) – no, your site's domain name is placed on a blacklist and the machines that direct traffic to your site are modified to send all that traffic to a website bearing a DOJ seal that says “this site has been cast into the outer darkness because it's a dirty, dirty pirate site.” Not only that, but the DOJ can also tell PayPal, and real, honest-to-God Banks to freeze any money you may have made as a result of having that legitimate website.

In other words, if someone makes a mistake and decides that your cheerful Space Opera about a wisecracking smuggler and his merry crew isn't actually your own work, you might learn that your site has effectively been “erased” from the Internet, and that the services you used to make money are not allowed to pay you, and that you have very little recourse to actually get it fixed. This is the same government, after all, that couldn't figure out how to take Ted Fucking Kennedy off the No-Fly List.

So what can we do to fight this? If you're a US Citizen, it's a good idea to contact your representatives and tell them to vote no on both these issues. You can do that by going over to americancensorship.org and filling in the form on that page – it will be used to contact them.

That can't be the end of it, though. It seems like this happens every damn year, and it's the same people over and over again that keep trying to push it through. I have no idea how to effectively fight them, but they must be effectively fought.

Comments

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Thank you for an intelligent

Thank you for an intelligent post on the topic. I really appreciate hearing from artists and content creators on this issue.

As for fighting the reintroduction of this law, WE VOTE THEM OUT. That's all we can do.

It seems like the more we

It seems like the more we fight, the more money the entertainment industry wastes in an effort to get ever more harsh and unbelievable anti-piracy laws passed. The fact that these bills are even being considered at all shows that Congress has no clue how the Internet works, how important it is to our economy and infrastructure, or just how bad the consequences will be on the entire world. Every time bills like this have come up, I've written to my Congresscritters. I've encouraged friends to do so.

The sad thing is, their tactics work. If they keep introducing more bills, eventually, people don't pay enough attention, and the bills get through. And I don't see a way to keep this from happening in the long term, and it depresses the hell out of me. The Internet will be smashed back down to the bedrock, and a whole new entity would have to arise to get around this kind of legislation - if it were possible at all. The truly sad thing is that we let them get a foot in the door, starting with the DMCA - a horribly flawed piece of legislation that gave the entertainment industry their first taste of being able to penalize people for even imagined slights with ridiculous penalties without any kind of trial at all. And when it does end up in court, the courts have favored them, handing out MILLIONS in fines for even just sharing a half-dozen songs.

I have, on several occasions now, written in to try to keep these bills from being passed. All I can do is pray that eventually, somehow, our very broken government sees what's become of itself, and bites the hands that hold its leash.

I signed and sent a message

Thanks a lot for bringing this to my attention. I watched the video, was appalled, and then filled out and sent an e-mail to my representatives. I also posted the link on Facebook so all of my friends are aware of what is going on. This is ridiculous! My husband and I are trying to start a small business, and we just couldn't afford to constantly monitor the comments that people might post on our site for links or information that might infringe on the "rights" of the entertainment companies! I have to agree, this frightens me, and the fact that fat cats can consta-lobby for these sorts of bills to the House and Congress is just ridiculous. Maybe we should start a ground-swell movement to change the copyright laws entirely... :)

I know this makes me sound old, but... What IS this country coming to? We are morally bankrupt and the unethical behavior of those who govern us is a reflection of the lack of concern or motivation on the part of "we, the people" to require them to stay in line.

I wonder how long it will take for the moon to open up as a frontier for those who want to find a better place...

Didn't watch the video yet

Didn't watch the video yet (buffering issues), but I did write my rep.

This is such a bad road to go down, and the last thing we need is more bureaucracy.

I certainly don't think that the entertainment industry needs any more power (and the government shouldn't police the web for it).

This is disgusting.

It seems like this happens

It seems like this happens every damn year, and it's the same people over and over again that keep trying to push it through. I have no idea how to effectively fight them, but they must be effectively fought.

They won't stop doing it until they are penalized for doing it. For example, weaken or repeal the DMCA, or reduce the term of copyrights.