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copyright Archives - cyberenviro.org


Understanding the Architectures of SOPA & PIPA

Two controversial pieces of legislation that would significantly alter the architecture of the internet are currently being debated in congress: the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. The following is a round up of some sources I’ve found helpful in trying to understand the effect that these pieces of legislation would have on the informational architecture of the internet.

The first comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation who recently published an open letter to congress from 83 prominent internet engineers and architects. The letter is short and worth a full read, but here is the key passage (emphasis mine):

If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences. In exchange for this, such legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties’ right and ability to communicate and express themselves online.

The second is Ars Technica’s summary of a Consumer Electronics Show panel that debated both SOPA and the recently introduced OPEN Act, an alternative piece of legislation supported by notable critics of SOPA (emphasis mine):

[Ryan] Clough [legislative counsel for the Office of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)] said SOPA and Protect-IP create an architecture for Internet censorship. “Once we create this system, there is no way it will be contained to copyright infringement,” he said. Further, he argued “this bill will make it easier for China to keep imposing the types of controls on the Internet that it does and to keep resisting international pressure against it.”

The third is a piece Julian Sanchez wrote for the Cato Institute. Sanchez discusses the link between information architecture and free speech in order to argue that SOPA and PIPA would constitute a new legal and technological architecture of censorship (emphasis mine):

SOPA is a 70 page statute establishing a detailed legal process by which the Justice Department can initiate blocking of supposed pirate domains by ISPs and search engines, and by which private parties can seek orders requiring payment processors and ad networks to sever tie.

If SOPA passes, thousands of commercial ISPs, colleges, small businesses, nonprofits, and other entities that maintain domain servers are going to have to reconfigure their networks, potentially at substantial cost, in order to easily comply with the new law.

… These twin architectures will obliterate major institutional barriers to Internet censorship generally, not just censorship for antipiracy purposes.

The fourth is the Obama Administration’s response to SOPA/PIPA, written by Victoria Espinel (IP Enforcement Coordinator at Office of Management and Budget), Aneesh Chopra (U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Technology at the Office of Science and Technology Policy), and Howard Schmidt (Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff) (emphasis theirs):

We must avoid creating new cybersecurity risks or disrupting the underlying architecture of the Internet. Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security. Our analysis of the DNS filtering provisions in some proposed legislation suggests that they pose a real risk to cybersecurity and yet leave contraband goods and services accessible online. We must avoid legislation that drives users to dangerous, unreliable DNS servers and puts next-generation security policies, such as the deployment of DNSSEC, at risk.

And finally – A short video, from a group called Fight for the Future, illustrating what PIPA entails and the chilling effect it would have on the internet:


Newspaper CEO Finally Agrees Copyright Trolling Was a Dumb Idea

About a year ago MediaNews Group, publisher of 40 newspapers, signed a deal with Righthaven, a law firm. The deal allowed Righthaven to file copyright infringement lawsuits on MediaNews Group’s behalf in exchange for 50% of any settlement/verdict. Now, MediaNews Group has decided to part ways with Righthaven and John Paton, the chief executive of MediaNews Group, is quoted in Wired as saying:

“The issues about copyright are real … But the idea that you would hire someone on an — essentially — success fee to run around and sue people at will who may or may not have infringed as a way of protecting yourself … does not reflect how news is created and disseminated in the modern world … I come from the idea that it was a dumb idea from the start.” (emphasis added)

The idea that one could monetize news content (or any other content) by restricting its circulation and suing individual bloggers was always a dubious one. The RIAA and many other organizations that took this approach previously now appear to be abandoning it. And, as the Wired article also notes, Righthaven has lost a string of its lawsuits over the question of whether it even has the right to sue over copyright infringement when they are not the actual copyright holder.

Informationell Deutschland

In preparation for the 2011 Graduate Center-Humboldt University Summer Seminar that I’ll be participating in, I thought it would useful to take stock of some of the recent informational happenings in Germany:

  • Germany is now the largest market for video games in Europe, driven primarily by German interest in the Wii Fit (more …).
  • German laws banning the distribution of photos of people or their property without their permission is forcing Google to modify its StreetView functionality before its launch in Germany (more …).
  • A number of German states, led by Lower Saxony, are now trying to prevent web services such as Amazon, Facebook, or Google from aggregating and sharing visitor information without the explicit consent of the visitor (more …).
  • Facebook has grown by 260% in Germany over just the past year and Germany is now the 18th largest country in Facebook with over 2M members. However, Facebook still remains much smaller in Germany than the Berlin-based StudiVZ social network which boasts over 13M members (more …).
  • A Hamburg court has ruled that YouTube can be held liable for damages when it hosts copyright-protected material without permission (more …).
  • Dead Drops — an anonymous, offline, p2p file-sharing network in public space — has been established by Berlin based media artist Aram Bartholl. Dead Drops embeds USB flash drives into walls, buildings and curbs in public space, allowing anyone to plugin their laptop to share their favorite files and data (more …). h/t jgieseking

This is, but of course, a very small sample of recent happenings. Hopefully I’ll have more to report post-seminar.

GEMA to Preschoolers: Pay Up or Shut Up

GEMA (Germany’s version of the RIAA) is now demanding that preschools pay corporate giants for the right to sing along. They’re not just talking about sharing music files anymore, now they’re policing preschools for making copies of sheet music for sing-along time.

According to Deutsche Welle:

A tightening of copyright rules means kindergartens now have to pay fees to Germany’s music licensing agency, GEMA, to use songs that they reproduce and perform. The organization has begun notifying creches and other daycare facilities that if they reproduce music to be sung or performed, they must pay for a license.

“If a preschool wants to make its own copy of certain music – if the words of a song or the musical score is copied – then they need to buy a license,” GEMA spokesperson Peter Hempel told Deutsche Welle . . .

. . . Fees start at 56 euros ($74) for 500 copies of a song, a rate charged annually, not per child.

If you think this sort of extreme copyright enforcement is unique to Germany, think again. The same sort of thing is happening in the US, in France, and elsewhere.


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