As we become China, some win while the rest of us lose

player pianoby Elsie esq.

Revised ‘Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too
[Via Ars Technica]

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.

As for sites which simply change their domain name slightly after being targeted, the new bill will let the government and private parties bring quick action against each new variation.

Get ready for the “PROTECT IP Act.”


We will be censoring the Internet, prohibiting access to websites possibly based simply on the claims of a single business. There have already been instances of our own government shutting down access to sites for just linking to what they determine are offending sites – often without any judicial oversight .

Now companies might be able to accomplish the same sort of thing through only their own say-so. Imagine if searching for a site online was fruitless due solely to the words of a record company.

It seems to me that this is a possibility of this law. Better for the intermediaries to be safe than sorry. You have only to look at Facebook’s response to a complaint against Ars Technica – the very site I am quoting. Facebook erased the page of one of the largest tech publishers on the Internet solely based on an anonymous entity. Nothing else but someone’s word.

Ars Technica was able to use its bully pulpit to get a remedy. Not so for so many other groups that are just screwed by this procedure.

Facebook apparently never did reveal why someone complained about copyright infringement.

Now think about what could have happened if a similar complainant was able to not only shut down access to Ars Technica – or even my site – but also erase their presence from search engine.

Because this law ‘protects’ agencies that take pre-emptive action, being safe is what will likely happen. Search engines will just remove the sites and then let the courts deal with it, rather than the other way around. Guilty until proven innocent would be the rules..

Whereas China often censors the Internet to protect its political interests, the US may now be in the process of censoring the Internet purely for a few of its business interests. I guess we will know who really runs the country if this passes.

Over 100 years ago, we created  the Copyright Act to protect musicians from piano music rolls for player pianos.

Laws were used 100 years ago in an attempt to protect interests threatened by a new technology. We see this again today. 100 years ago the threat was the mechanical reproduction of music. Today it is the digital reproduction of music.

Business models were threatened then and new laws were used to bolster these models rather than adapting. They lost then and they will lose now. But their efforts live on and can often harm society.

Even after the threat of piano music rolls disappeared,  copyright laws are finally finishing what was started  100 years ago – destroying the ability of people to listen to the music from piano music rolls. Some live performances may be lost forever to society because of what was done 100 years ago to protect just a few.

I wonder what we will lose in the future because a few are allowed to create new laws to protect themselves at the cost to society?

2 thoughts on “As we become China, some win while the rest of us lose

  1. Seems to me that the Feds will have a new way to gather and threaten companies, individuals, and tax-payers. After all, who gets to decide what a “rogue” site is. For a great many government people, Fox Cable News is a “rogue” site. For some of us, CNN is. Welcome to China.

    1. Just a continuation of the decline in rights since the Patriot Act – something both parties are responsible for. Last year, over 1500 surveillance warrants were approved by the FISA court – every single one that was placed in front of them. These warrants can be used for domestic uses and can be gotten 72 hours AFTER surveillance begins. So they Feds can wiretap anyone for 3 days legally without a warrant. This is over and above any illegal warrantless wiretaps they perform. The FBI issued over 24,000 National Security Letters that allow them to get email addresses and phone records without court oversight or warrants.

      These powers were supposed to be used only for terrorist targets but it is hard to imagine that some of those 24,000 letters were for regular law enforcement issues. The concentration of police powers in the hands of the Executive Branch without judicial oversight – something the powers in both parties have been happy with – seems to be part and parcel of what America seems to want. Thus we have the Bush tax cuts or Obamacare – both things that the Legislative branch actually created.

      But the craven leaders in Congress do not want the responsibility that comes from doing their work so they love passing off responsibility to a central Executive authority. Whenever this has happened in the past, it has not ended well.

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