Last January, hundreds of websites went dark to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act, a controversial proposal to use DNS filtering to censor websites suspected of infringing copyright. Millions of voters contacted their members of Congress to protest the legislation, and as a result dozens of members announced their opposition. The protests ended any serious consideration of copyright enforcement efforts for 2012.
"I think people are shell-shocked from that," SOPA opponent Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) told The Hill's Jennifer Martinez. “It was sort of an unprecedented experience that members do not want to repeat.”
Lawmakers “have yet to even hint at efforts to revisit anti-piracy legislation,” Martinez reports. She called key figures on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which have jurisdiction over the copyright issues. None of them were planning to bring up copyright enforcement issues in 2013.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chief sponsor of the Protect IP Act last year, remains concerned about the issue but has no plans to introduce legislation. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives were equally noncommittal.
[…] Of course, that could change at any time. We have no doubt that the RIAA and MPAA will start lobbying for a SOPA successor as soon as they think they can get away with it. But for now, Congress is still too terrified about provoking another Internet backlash to consider new copyright enforcement measures.
A cyber security bill moving swiftly through Congress would give government intelligence agencies broad powers to work with private companies to share information about Internet users. While some critics are beginning to organize online against the legislation, defense contractors, many already working with the National Security Agency on related data-mining projects, are lobbying to press forward. Like many bad policy ideas, entrenched government contractors seem to be using taxpayer money to lobby for even more power and profit.
The proposal, H.R.3523, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), provides companies and the government “free rein to bypass existing laws in order to monitor communications, filter content, or potentially even shut down access to online services for ‘cybersecurity purposes.’” Though the bill has been compared to SOPA given its potential to smother free speech on the Internet, the ill-fated copyright legislation that inspired an intense lobbying battle earlier this year, much of the tech community has has joined with copyright interests to support CISPA.
A full list of companies and trade groups supporting the legislation, from Facebook to AT&T, can be found here. Combing through the lobbyist disclosure forms, Republic Report noticed that two of the top firms spending a lot of money to pass CISPA are major National Security Agency (NSA) contractors. [++]
Hopefully that was a one-time experience that came from a lot of different things coming together where a lot of different people came to the conclusion that this was a terrible piece of legislation.
RIAA head Cary Sherman • Discussing the experience of SOPA and his hopes that the mass online protests won’t repeat. Yeah, internet, we should prove him wrong — by, for example, spreading this quote! (via shortformblog)
The (Internet) giant has stopped this craziness—here and now. But the challenge is for the giant to recognize the need to stop this craziness generally. We need a system that is not so easily captured by crony capitalists. We need a government that is not so easily bought. And if only the giant could be brought to demand this too, in the few moments we have before it falls back to sleep, then this war—this “copyright war,” this war that Jack Valenti used to call his own “terrorist war,” where apparently the “terrorists” are our children—will have been worth every bit of the battle. I admit, today this hope seems like a pretty far-fetched dream. But I can assure you that a decade ago, the idea that millions would have rallied to stop Hollywood from pushing an “anti-piracy” bill through Congress was also little more than a dream. A dream that hundreds of activists have now made real.Lawrence Lessig (via azspot)
It didn’t take long for those effects to become apparent. The cyberlocker Filesonic has now disabled file sharing functionality: Users can still upload files for personal storage, but can’t create public links to enable others to access those files. (Though I’m not sure what prevents someone from simply creating a dummy account, uploading files, and then publicly posting the login information.) Another cyberlocker, Uploaded.to, is just blocking all traffic from U.S. Internet addresses, though it’s not at all clear how much legal protection that’s likely to afford them. You can hardly blame them for being skittish: The Megaupload indictment suggests that the U.S. government considers a wide array of cyberlocker business practices to be ipso facto evidence of criminal intentions, even though there are arguably legitimate reasons for many of them. Yet the government doesn’t think it has to wait for a trial, or give the folks who run a site an opportunity to explain their practices, before seizing an entire domain—which would be an effective death sentence for many startups.
If you think all cyberlockers are nothing more than piracy tools, and there’s no legitimate reason to make use of cloud storage for anything but personal backups, this might sound like an entirely healthy development. It’s a little more worrying to those of us who see many valid reasons that law abiding individuals—even those who lack contracts with major record labels and movie studios, or the funds and tech savvy to run their own servers—might want to share large files with friends and colleagues, or distribute them to the general public.
The last innovation is always safe. That’s why it’s easy to claim concrete examples of the harm regulation might do are hyperbolic fearmongering: Nobody’s going to shut down YouTube or Twitter now, because we’ve already seen the incredible value creation they enable, even if they also make it a bit easier to infringe copyrights. And anyway, the success stories eventually get big enough to afford their own fancy lawyers. It’s the next platform that we risk strangling in the cradle, because every new medium starts out recapitulating old media content before it becomes truly generative. Early radio is full of people reading newspapers and books out loud. Early TV and film looks like what you get when someone points a camera at a stage play.Julian Sanchez
First, the U.S. legal system is perfectly capable of reaching criminal suspects overseas. Megaupload is incorporated in Hong Kong, and its CEO was arrested (along with three employees) in New Zealand. That’s significant because supporters of laws like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) typically claim they’re helpless to do anything about overseas sites by more conventional means, necessitating aggressive new enforcement powers with streamlined hearings that give short shrift to due process. Now, if the people behind Megaupload are, in fact, guilty of criminal activity—and the indictment certainly looks damning—the government will have the opportunity to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt before a jury, which will also get to hear any exculpatory facts or arguments the defendants are able to offer. It can be a slow process, but it’s also how we’re supposed to do things in the United States: we don’t just issue orders branding people or sites as “rogues,” we convict them.
Second, if you’re worried about the government taking down U.S.-registered sites, which include any site in the .com and .org domains, wherever their servers might be located, then SOPA and PIPA aren’t really what you should be concerned about: the government already has that power under the PRO-IP Act of 2008. There are good reasons SOPA and PIPA attracted more attention: Instead of “seizing” domains directly at the registry, they would have imposed blocking and filtering obligations on thousands of ISPs and search engines, creating a whole host of technological and security problems. There was also the private right of action, which seemed more susceptible to abuse by overzealous copyright owners who were able to find a friendly judge. But the central power of the government to shut down web domains is already there in PRO-IP, and has been used to seize hundreds of sites already […]
Silly masses, trying your pesky “democracy” with us:
[Evidently], American law enforcement didn’t get the memo that they were powerless against overseas file-sharing services. The day after the Internet’s historic protest of SOPA and PIPA last week, the United States government unsealed an indictment against the people behind Megaupload, one of the largest sites on the Internet. Four senior Megaupload officials were arrested in New Zealand on Thursday, and officials seized millions of dollars in assets.
As we reported Thursday, the FBI worked with authorities from New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, the UK, and the Phillipines to catch the defendants and seize their assets. Law enforcement officials froze accounts at banks based in Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Phillipines, and Germany. The feds also seized numerous servers, cars, pieces of artwork, televisions, and other assets. The list of seized assets in the indictment was six pages long.
So if the US government already has the power to arrest people and seize assets in places as far away as Germany, New Zealand, and the Philippines, are the new enforcement powers sought by content companies even necessary?
It’s true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.
“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy,” Smith said. “It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products.”
"The Committee will continue work with both copyright owners and Internet companies to develop proposals that combat online piracy and protect America’s intellectual property," Smith continued. "We welcome input from all organizations and individuals who have an honest difference of opinion about how best to address this widespread problem."
Even former Senator Chris Dodd, the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, seemed to concede defeat. “With today’s announcement, we hope the dynamics of the conversation can change and become a sincere discussion about how best to protect the millions of American jobs affected by the theft of American intellectual property,” he said in a statement. “It is incumbent that they now sincerely work with all of us to achieve a meaningful solution to this critically important goal.”
The ideas present in both SOPA and PIPA may return, but both bills in their present form—and with their present names—are probably done for good.