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Surprise! After months in the oven, the soon-to-be-released new version of a major US Internet censorship bill didn't shrink in scope—it got much broader. Under the new proposal, search engines, Internet providers, credit card companies, and ad networks would all have cut off access to foreign "rogue sites"—and such court orders would not be limited to the government. Private rightsholders could go to court and target foreign domains, too.
The bill is an attempt to deal with foreign sites which can be difficult for US enforcement to reach, even when those sites explicitly target US citizens.
The PROTECT IP Act makes a few major changes to last year's COICA legislation. First, it does provide a more limited definition of sites “dedicated to infringing activities.” The previous definition was criticized as being unworkably vague, and it could have put many legitimate sites at risk.
But what the PROTECT IP Act gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. While the definition of targeted sites is tighter, the remedies against such sites get broader. COICA would have forced credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa to stop doing business with targeted sites, and it would have prevented ad networks from working with such sites. It also suggested a system of DNS blocking to make site nominally more difficult to access.
The PROTECT IP Act adds one more entity to this list: search engines.
The emphasis here is on forcing intermediaries to get involved in policing such sites. Rightsholders have had difficulty suing the millions of end users engaged in infringement, and they have had difficulty suing the sites themselves when they are based abroad. But MasterCard and Google? Those are easy, US-based targets who will comply will any law Congress passes.
The PROTECT IP Act goes even further than forcing these intermediaries to take action after a court order; it actively encourages them to take unilateral action without any sort of court order at all. The bill summary makes clear that ad networks and payment processors will be protected if they “voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, outside of any court ordered action.” If a search engine decides that the next YouTube is a copyright infringer—and rightsholders have often sued sites like Veoh and YouTube in the past—it can simply cut off advertising for that reason and be immunized under the law. So can Visa.
Book Burning in the Digital Age... and so it begins
The battle of the copyright is a long and sordid tale on the internet. Most folks are familiar with the old days of Napster, and the record companies suing the pants off of soccer-Moms because their kids had downloaded songs to the family computer. More recently as technology has continued to advance, we have seen movie companies also come into the fold along with the music companies, often suing to shut down websites that host torrent files of copyrighted material, as well as still going after the individual on occasion. At the end of the day though, most folks aren't overly concerned about those issues. Music and movies are creative expressions and public past-times for the most part, not exactly a priority in this day and age. It all sounds like a lot of hair-splitting over profits that no one really wants to be bothered with. Sure artists are entitled to make money from their work. But at the same time, when someone shells out $20 for a CD that has one good song on it, it's clearly a rip-off scheme by the recording industry too. A big ball of frustration and argument that is best left to the folks who have a vested interest in the fight. The whole debate has just soured many people to listening to music or watching movies at all. Easier just to flip on the radio or the TV and be done with it. Music and movies just aren't much fun as a hobby anymore, which is probably a bigger reason for any perceived loss of revenue for these big companies than anything else. Some folks have just decided to grow up faster than we would have liked to, wistfully leaving pop-culture behind to focus on more important issues. Like freedom of speech, perhaps.
Now anyone who has had contact with American society in the past fifteen years or so has heard all about these copyright lawsuits, and has probably heard the argument that it is all “really about freedom of speech.” Most of us never really bought into that though. It wasn't really about freedom of speech so much as buying a cable modem and ripping enough tracks to make a mix disc for the weekend, and to make it worth the money you were shelling out for the broadband connection. But as it turns out, these freedom-loving pirate pioneers might have had more insight than most of us ever gave them credit for. It's not just about ripping a free copy of some crappy pop jam anymore. The debates over sharing content over the internet are no longer the frontier of internet free-speech. The goalposts have been on the move it seems.
Originally posted by Terrormaster
GREAT! Welcome to China's version of the Internet. And I can betcha sites like WikiLeaks and ah hell even our beloved ATS will most likely get blocked eventually.