SOPA & PIPA – 2011 Legislation that Threatens Digital Freedoms – Extra Credits
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SOPA & PIPA – 2011 Legislation that Threatens Digital Freedoms – Extra Credits

Hey guys, you can probably already guess this but some of the information in this episode is going to be a little bit out of date. However, we decided to go ahead with it because even though SOPA maybe done The future is still a wide open question. Laws like ACTA still threaten open access to the internet in Europe And even here in the states, the question of how to address piracy is far from settled So, just getting that out there in front… Let’s do this. Hi everyone! Looks like it’s Public Service Day again here at EC Last week, you heard us lend our voice to a a growing cry, to ask the ESA to withdraw its support from SOPA the Stop Online Piracy Act. This week, we’ll be discussing why this legislation is such a threat Now, some of you may know that the vote on this legislation was delayed last week, and many hailed it as a victory in the battle against SOPA and …yeah it is a victory, but I don’t think the battle is quite as over as it looks You see, while SOPA itself may have been delayed there’s a nearly IDENTICAL bill called PIPA moving through the senate as we speak. And there’s nothing to say that SOPA won’t come off that shelf at some point either… so we can’t be resting easy just yet. Now, we’re going to be referring mostly to SOPA here today, but know that most everything we say applies to PIPA as well. Also, some of the particular parts of SOPA we’re about to discuss have already been cut from the bill. and that’s good. I hope they stay cut. But we’re still going to bring them up here, because: A: there’s no guarantee those cut sections won’t be put back in at some point. B: I think it’s important to know SOPA’s full, original intentions going forward So, enough talk. Let’s get started! talking… *ahem By now, you’ve probably hear a lot about both of these bills For those who haven’t, the gist is that U.S. companies need some recourse when dealing with foreign-based piracy on the internet and this is a legitimate problem. Right now, if a website’s located in China or some small pacific island, and it’s distributing material that’s owned by a U.S. company, The U.S. company really can’t do a whole lot about it. Sure, you can sue the foreign company, but you really can’t enforce the result of a U.S. suit in these countries. And without being to enforce the results, all you’ve really done is just wasted some money, and not really done anything to stop your works from being pirated So, we really do need some solution for that and that’s where SOPA comes in. SOPA was designed to allow copyright holders to essentially shutdown a site’s access to a U.S. customer base As well as to cut them off from many of their principal ways of receiving funds Unfortunaetly, this approach to solving the problem is sort of like nuking an ant hill Yeah, you’ll get rid of the ants. But you’re probably going to create some bigger issues in the process So, let’s dive into the principal problems with this bill First off: the bill is a complete mess and I don’t mean that from a value-judgement perspective I’m talking about the way it’s organized. This bill is unbelievably broad and filled with conflicting language From our reading of it, and from all the analysis we could find from legal scholars: Many of the underlying issues in this bill could probably be attributed to how poorly it was put together, and it used to be much worse before it went through a few revisions. As it was originally written: SOPA more or less allowed for entire sites to be shutdown if they didn’t do enough to prevent users from uploading copyrighted material Like if, say somebody uploaded a copy of Harry Potter to Youtube Warner Bros. could have Youtube shutdown by court order, for failing to prevent the upload from happening. Which is a logistical impossibility. Fortunately, the language of the bill was eventually changed and this specific flaw was greatly diminished. But make no mistake, this bill still had plenty of other serious problems Until recently, SOPA had some pretty scary provisions, regarding DNS redirecting. Thankfully, these were also some of the bits that got nixed recently, and permanently, I hope. But lets look into what these provisions were and what they were trying to do It’s a more complicated issue than we can probably do justice to here but the short version is that the Domain Name System (DNS) is sort of like a phone book for the internet. When you type in a web address in a browser, it goes and looks for that address in the Domain Name System, and that tells it what IP to connect you to. The original provisions of SOPA would require Internet Service Providers (ISP) to redirect DNS queries aimed at rogue sites and would even require search engines to stop linking to infringing websites. A: That’s deeply troubling from a civil liberty perspective as this is the first time the United States has proposed giving the government these powers the same powers, by the way, used by Syria and China to restrict free speech and repress dissent. and B: It also messes with the fundamental integrity of the Domain Name System. For years, the Department of Homeland Security has been trying to make this system increasingly sacrosanct (too valuable to interfere with) if nothings ever allowed to come between you and the domain name system, it makes it very hard to hijack and redirect your web query, and very easy to detect when it does happen. But SOPA’s DNS provisions would have undone all that work In fact, the ex-director of the Department of Homeland Security said that SOPA runs directly counter to the houses own Cyber-Security efforts and a study by the Sandia National Lab not only questions SOPA’s efficacy, but said it would negatively impact U.S. and Global cyber-security and internet functionality So again, good thing those provisions are gone let’s hope they don’t come back. One last major complaint about the bill’s wording and this bit hasn’t been cut out yet: SOPA contains something called the “Voluntary Measures” provision which grants blanket immunity to anyone who cuts off a suspected infringing party, meaning they can’t be sued or prosecuted or anything. Even if they use that power in a completely discriminatory way. So, let’s say that Comcast or some other ISP decided that they wanted to block all foreign-based bit torrent links. According to SOPA, they might be immune from any net-neutrality or anti-trust challenges. This is even more troubling, when you consider the fact that ISPs like Comcast, have been buying up more and more copyrighted content themselves lately so they have a lot of interest in protecting those properties SOPA giving them the power to unilaterally police the internet is a problem and like I said before, a lot of the problems we’ve laid out here: The rushed process of writing the bill The DNS tampering and such are also big components of PIPA, which is actually a lot closer to passing right now There’s a lot more wrong with both of these bills in addition to what we’ve laid out here and I encourage you to read them over yourself but we don’t have a lot of time, and there’s something I’d like to cover before we go Even more than SOPA itself what’s disappointed the most about this whole thing is watching how the process has been handled Throughout the crafting of this bill there has been a display of willful ignorance that has been jaw-dropping and -frankly- disgusting. Shortly before dismissing the expert claims that SOPA might do harm to the internet, Representative Mel Watt said: “As one who acknowledged in his opening statement… that he was not a nerd and didn’t understand a lot of the technological stuff, I’m not the person to argue about the technology part of this.” And that sort of brazen display of ignorance was a running theme throughout the hearings statement after statement was made that included comments to the effect that neither the speaker, nor the companies they represented, had any idea of the actual consequences of the bill but they were certain that it wouldn’t be as bad as people were saying. In fact, during the hearings on the bill only one witness for the opposition was allowed: Google’s Lawyer and she was treated radically differently than any of the host of witnesses in favor of SOPA Berated throughout her testimony, she was essentially dismissed as having only: “Pirate-Loving Nerd Concerns” In fact, the advocate for the AFLCIO went so far as to say: “The First Amendment does not protect stealing goods off trucks.” Which -by the way- is madness. If you’re a member of the AFLCIO, please write them. There is no way the AFLCIO, of all groups, should be in favor of SOPA. This is not how democracy is supposed to work We as citizens, as members of a democratic society are supposed to be informed, but the entire reason for having a representative democracy where we elect senators and congressman rather than voting on everything ourselves is to have people whose job it is to do nothing but study policy and understand its ramifications inside and out That’s their entire job and right now, many of our representatives have failed us So, write them. Let them know that this is not okay. Let them know that your vote or if you’re too young, the votes of everyone you can possibly make listen depends on their desire to really understand the issues they’re voting on. Issues that affect your life. When every group that was willing to spend time to actually think about this bill from the ACLU to the Heritage Foundation From Ron Wyden to Ron Paul From the CATO Institute to the Department of Homeland Security has come out against this bill the least we can ask from our representatives is that they do the same. Thanks for watching. Spread the word, we will see you next week.


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