Anti-Piracy Act Racks Up Critics -- From Digital Rights Groups To Web Engineers

A controversial anti-piracy measure, the Protect IP Act, might have drawn the backing of the entertainment industry, but a growing number of critics including digital rights groups, prominent Internet engineers and, as of this week, the editorial pages of The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, say the bill could do more harm than good.

Like a predecessor proposal, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, the Protect-IP Act targets sites that are "dedicated to infringing activities." The measure empowers the Department of Justice to obtain orders prohibiting Internet service providers from putting through traffic to those sites' URLs. Web users, however, could still reach the sites by typing in their numerical addresses.

The Protect IP Act also provides for court orders forcing Google, Bing and other search engines to stop returning certain results.

The American Library Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch and other organizations specifically condemned the idea that ISPs could be ordered to redirect traffic. "We continue to believe that such a provision would be ineffective and runs contrary to the US government's commitment to advancing a single, global Internet," they said in a letter to lawmakers. "Its inclusion risks setting a precedent for other countries, even democratic ones, to use DNS (Domain Name System) mechanisms to enforce a range of domestic policies, erecting barriers on the global medium of the Internet. Non-democratic regimes could seize on the precedent to justify measures that would hinder online freedom of expression and association."

A group of Internet engineers, meanwhile, says that DNS filtering "would be minimally effective and would present technical challenges that could frustrate important security initiatives."

What's more, they say, "it would promote development of techniques and software that circumvent use of the DNS," which would undermine the Internet's ability to serve as a "single, unified, global communications network."

For now, the measure is on hold, thanks to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore). He put the brakes on the bill after it unanimously cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I understand and agree with the goal of the legislation, to protect intellectual property and combat commerce in counterfeit goods, but I am not willing to muzzle speech and stifle innovation and economic growth to achieve this objective," he said in a statement. "At the expense of legitimate commerce, [the bill's] prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet."

2 comments about "Anti-Piracy Act Racks Up Critics -- From Digital Rights Groups To Web Engineers ".
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  1. Bruce May from Bizperity, June 10, 2011 at 9:12 p.m.

    Everything about this act is wrong but the unconstitutional impact on freedom of speech is most disturbing. The principle that prohibits prior restraint (stopping speech before it is even published) applies here in a big way. Your right to speak is also my right to listen. If I don’t have free access to what you are saying and I don’t even know what it is you are trying to say then the government has too much control. We really need to make lawmakers take a course in Constitutional law before they are allowed to start writing laws like this. It is also clear that big media would gladly lobby away our most fundamental constitutional rights in order to protect their own vested interest in their intellectual property. I too want to protect my own intellectual property rights but I know better than to try and achieve that goal with draconian measures that turn the Internet into a police state, complete with thought police who decide what we can and cannot hear or read. Activities that threaten our intellectual property rights should be dealt with by the courts, through the use of civil penalties that require proof of harm after the fact, not by prior restraint of what should be protected speech. If our out of control lobbying system lets big business trod our civil liberties into the dirt we will be in big trouble. It’s sad to see the United States dropping the ball when it comes to defending the same liberties that we hold out to the rest of the world as the gold standard in good government. It’s easy to forget that the reason the Bill of Rights was written in the first place was because it was clearly understood that the government cannot be trusted to make these decisions for us. As painful and harmful as some attacks to our intellectual property may be, the remedy must take place in the light of day, after the fact, in a court of law where we can all judge the outcome and not through a hidden process that blocks the free exchange of ideas and information without public oversight by all of us.

  2. Lee Graczyk from RxRights, June 14, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

    Much has been reported in the news lately about the
    negative consequences of the PROTECT IP Act, including two recent editorials in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. As this article, like many other articles and editorials, so rightly states, if the PROTECT IP Act is enacted, it would raise grave technical and security concerns and hinder free speech. It would also take away Americans' access to locate safe, affordable prescription medications online- even from trusted, legitimate Canadian and other international pharmacies. RxRights is a national
    coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting American consumer access to sources of safe, affordable prescription drugs. The Coalition is encouraging consumers to take action
    now by sending letters to their representatives on Capitol Hill and the White House to protect their right to safe, affordable medications. Americans need to state their opposition to the PROTECT IP Act in its current form. For more information or to voice your concern, visit <> Lee Graczyk

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