Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Operation Hijack the Internet Begins!

Expansion of government power continues. What a surprise.  This time, they're seizing websites, 82 of them, to be exact. Yep, the Department of Homeland Security - without due process, a trial, and in possible violation of one of the more important limitations on Copyright law, the doctrine of “fair use” - is seizing and shutting down internet websites.  Why? They claim "copyright violation".

Well, if that's the case, Homeland Security could take care of the unemployment problem, as that's how many people it will take to combat "copyright violation" on the Internet. And we know that's not the intention here, so, what is?  Maybe the suppression of information and knowledge?  Because, you know, an informed citizenry and the ability to communicate information and knowledge at lightening speed is a very frightening scenario for the profitable powers that be.

Apparently, they are serious.  The bill, Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act , which, if it goes through, will not only do what it claims, but in addition, will serve other purposes, lingers on the Senate Legislative calendar.  And what is "online infringement" anyway?  Couldn't that be just about anything? 

First, these seizures may be just a short preview of the kind of overreaching enforcement we’ll see if the Congress passes the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). That bill, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov 18, gives the government dramatic new copyright enforcement powers, in particular the ability to make entire websites disappear from the Internet if infringement, or even links to infringement, are deemed to be "central" to the purpose of the site. Rather than just targeting files that actually infringe copyright law, COICA’s "nuclear-option" design has the government blacklisting entire sites out of the domain name system — a reckless scheme that will undermine global Internet infrastructure and censor legitimate online speech. As we’ve noted, one of the most pernicious effects of COICA is likely to be just what we’ve seen here: the takedown of legitimate speech.

Second, the seizures also show why this kind of enforcement doesn’t work; seized sites were available at other domain names within hours. If the United States government increases interference in critical DNS infrastructure to police alleged copyright infringement, it is very likely that a large percentage of the Internet will shift to alternative DNS mechanisms that are located outside the US. This will cause numerous problems — including new network security issues, as a large percentage of the population moves to encrypted offshore DNS to escape the censoring effects of the procedures outlined in COICA. Presumably the DOJ and the DHS should be committed to improving network security — not undermining it.

Third, it’s hard to believe that this kind of action is the best use of the Department of Homeland Security’s resources. What investigations didn’t occur while the DHS spent it time and energy pursuing the agenda of large media companies? Moreover, it’s highly unlikely that this publicity stunt will really help creators get compensated. The best way to help artists of every stripe get compensated for their work is to make sure that there is a thriving marketplace of innovative digital businesses to pay them — business like OnSmash, which is committed to promoting new and unheralded artists.


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