When Internet law professors come together to say something fails the test to be constitutional, wouldn't you think they know what they are talking about? How many groups of professionals can shout from the rooftops before politicians hear and heed that wisdom? It is time to give America back the freedoms and rights for which the USA is supposed to stand for and was founded upon, like freedom of speech.
The Volokh Conspiracy announced that more than 90 (and still counting) "law professors who teach and write about intellectual property and Internet law" signed a letter opposing Senator Leahy's PROTECT-IP Act [PDF] and asked Congress to reject it. These legal minds determined that if passed, then the U.S. would be censoring freedom of speech as badly as "repressive regimes." The start of the letter states:
Although the problems the Act attempts to address - online copyright and trademark infringement - are serious ones presenting new and difficult enforcement challenges, the approach taken in the Act has grave constitutional infirmities, potentially dangerous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, and will undermine United States foreign policy and strong support of free expression on the Internet around the world.
PIPA, Big Brother's nickname for PROTECT-IP, would give the government the power to vaporize sites that it determines are guilty of infringing activities. ISPs would block access to blacklisted "rogue sites" by removing their registration with the Domain Name System (DNS), meaning if you entered the URL in your browser, all that would come up for that site would be a blank page.
For a nation that is pushing to help other nations battle against censorship and devising ways to protect activists like the "panic button app", PIPA legislation is all about giving the U.S. government the power to censor search engines and sites. Even if you managed to straighten out the mess to prove you were not engaging in copyright or trademark infringement, irreparable harm would have been done like when Homeland Security and ICE wrongfully labeled businesses as being connected to child porn.
Those same politicians who don't seem to be listening about the constitutionality of PIPA seem to hear the RIAA just fine. ZeroPaid blogged about the RIAA's ridiculous bait-and-switch to convince the "public that its own selfish commercial interests are really for the public good." The RIAA confused the issues by claiming PIPA was needed to restore order to the "lawless Internet" cause by hacktivists.
TechDirt, which has been saying PIPA is unconstitutional for quite some time now, wrote, "One would hope that politicians would start paying attention. Already, we've seen technologists, some of the top funders of innovation and some of the biggest names in the news business come out against the bill. Who's actually supporting it? So far, just a coalition of businesses who seek to block competition and get increased gov't protection to try to cover for their own failures to innovate and adapt."
The EFF wants your help to kill the PROTECT-IP Act. "The bill uses the following dangerously expansive definition of DNS server: 'a server or other mechanism used to provide the Internet protocol address associated with a domain name.' This loose, uncabined definition could lead to the targeting of other technologies-like operating systems, email clients, web clients, routers, and more-that are capable of providing IP addresses when given domain names like a traditional DNS server."
Does this make the P2P DNS alternative system proposed by former backers of The Pirate Bay more appealing to you? Perhaps you should start an IP list of your favorite sites to get around DNS filtering in case PROTECT-IP Act becomes a nightmare reality? I don't know about you, but I'm losing my patience with politicians and SCOTUS, basically anyone in authority that is supposed to be protecting We the People but are only too happy to kick the Constitution to the curb.
If PIPA is passed, then we may see sites simply "poof" and chapter one of George Orwell's 1984 come to pass:
People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.