August 3, 2011 (TSR)- We take a many things for granted. Take the internet. We assume that we’ll be able to access whatever Web site we want, whenever we want to go there. We assume that we can use any feature we like — watching online video, listening to podcasts, searching, e-mailing and instant messaging — anytime we choose. We assume that we can attach devices like wireless routers, game controllers or extra hard drives to make our online experience better.
“Network Neutrality” makes this possible. It is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality means that Internet service providers may not discriminate between different kinds of content and applications online. It guarantees a level playing field for all Web sites and Internet technologies. But all that could change.
The Internet was designed as an open medium. The fundamental idea since the Internet’s inception has been that every Web site, every feature and every service should be treated without discrimination. That’s how bloggers can compete with CNN or USA Today for readers. That’s how up-and-coming musicians can build underground audiences before they get their first top-40 single. That’s why when you use a search engine, you see a list of the sites that are the closest match to your request — not those that paid the most to reach you. Discrimination endangers our basic Internet freedoms.
The Protect IP Act, S. 968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, (.pdf) was introduced by 11 senators of all stripes, would grant the government the authority to bring lawsuits against these websites, and obtain court orders requiring search engines like Google to stop displaying links to them.
Supported by Recording Industry Association of America, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Motion Picture Association of America, National Association of Theater Owners, unions, broadcasters and cable operators, the Senate
The proposal, whose main sponsor is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), with 27 co-sponsors, is an offshoot to the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act introduced last year, which was also held up by Wyden. It was scrapped by its authors in exchange for the Protect IP Act in an attempted bid to win Senate passage. However, this new proposal is a draconian censorship measures that would force search engines and web browsers to censor individual web pages.
“This new Internet censorship bill is the worst net-related bill to be considered by Congress this year. Even China hasn’t gone so far as to insist web browsers delete any mention of censored sites. The PROTECT IP Act is like a virtual 1984 where ISPs and browsers would be forced to send any mention of blacklisted sites down the memory hole. Leahy changed the bill so that it bans the criticism. The new PROTECT-IP Act retains the censorship components from before, but adds a new one: it bans people from having serious conversations about the blacklisted sites. Under the new bill, anyone “referring or linking” to a blacklisted site is prohibited from doing so and can be served with a blacklist order forcing them to stop. It’s akin to the PATRIOT Act gag orders that make it illegal to even talk about the fact you’ve received a PATRIOT Act request, which turned out to let the government cover up thousands of illegal requests. Without the ability to talk about government power, there’s no way for citizens to make sure this power isn’t being misused. ” Demand Progress Executive Director and Internet activist Aaron Swartz said.
Under the old COICA draft, the government was authorized to obtain court orders to seize so-called generic top-level domains ending in .com, .org and .net. The new legislation, with the same sponsors, narrows that somewhat.
According to the leaked text, not only would ISPs have to block access to blacklisted sites but they’d also have to censor any links to blacklisted sites. Web browsers would also have to edit web pages people visit to ensure they didn’t display any links to blacklisted websites. Recently the popular Firefox browser refused a DOJ request to block access to certain sites; the new bill would allow the Attorney General to get an injunction against Firefox forcing them to comply.
Instead of allowing for the seizure of domains, it allows the Justice Department to obtain court orders demanding American ISPs stop rendering the DNS for a particular website — meaning the sites would still be accessible outside the United States.
Earlier this year, the government shut down 84,000 websites by mistake. They were quickly restored thanks to diligent reporters and the online outcry. In February, Bryan McCarthy became the first American ever to be arrested for simply linking to other sites and his website, ChannelSurfing.net, was blocked by the Department of Homeland Security.
This bill would force online advertising networks, credit card companies and search engines to cut off support for any site found by the courts to be “dedicated” to copyright or trademark infringement. It is important to note that it’s not for the US federal government to sue someone violating copy write laws. There is already a system in place for people to sue if their material is copy written or patented and thus this new bill begs to us question what its real motives are since there is not check and balance to it.
The main problem with the bill is in its effort to render sites invisible as well as unprofitable. Once a court determines that a site is dedicated to infringing, the measure would require the companies that operate domain-name servers to steer Internet users away from it. This misdirection, however, wouldn’t stop people from going to the site, because it would still be accessible via its underlying numerical address or through overseas domain-name servers.
Internet engineers warned that the bill’s attempt to hide piracy-oriented sites could hurt some legitimate sites because of the way domain names can be shared or have unpredictable mutual dependencies.
This bill is about intellectual property. Or is it? It seems contradictory to Net Neutrality.
We are headed toward a pay-per-view Internet where Web sites have fees. It means we may have to pay a network tax to run voice-over-the-Internet phones, use an advanced search engine, or chat via Instant Messenger. The next generation of inventions will be shut out of the top-tier service level. Meanwhile, the network owners will rake in even greater profits. The US Government monitoring everything and shut down whoever they think is a dissident.
Make no mistake: The free-flowing Internet as we know is in threat and it could very well become history. It is up to Humanity to stop this “little” assault to basic freedom of speech. America, the world is watching.
Please note: Gaddafi’s country website was shut down by the US Government when the attacks started. – TSR