Thursday, November 24, 2011

Protect IP Aims to Censor the Internet; Protect Big Corporations

  In October, Congress proposed a new law known as Protect Intellectual Property (Protect IP) Act.
The proposed bill, also known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House, suggests that
"copyright infringement" is a felony, and thus anyone who "infringes" on copyright shall be accused of a felony. The possible charges for copyright offenders is up to 5 years of prison.

  The ethical problems with this proposed bill may not be immediately obvious. What supporters of the bill won't tell you is that even a normal user online could be accused of copyright infringement and could face felony charges. The part that I get very upset about is that Protect IP even labels non-commercial use of content as copyright infringement.

  But normal users and internet citizens aren't the only ones who can be punished through this act. Websites that are "suspicious" of hosting files that violate copyright can be censored, which is the nice way of saying that they can be blocked at anytime.

  There are more than political problems with this bill. If Protect IP went into effect, this would prevent technically sophisticated internet users from using their own DNS system with reliability. It is not the fact that DNS wouldn't work, it just wouldn't be reliable or secure since the government would hold the right to peer in on any connection, even ones routed through private DNS systems.

  While the Business Software Alliance, an organization made up of Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and other major corporations have supported the law, some well known organizations have opposed the law as well. Such organizations include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla (makers of the popular browser, Firefox), Creative Commons, and Wikimedia (the corporate parent of Wikipedia).

 Individual citizens can also make a difference by calling your Congressperson and let them know that they think Protect IP is a bad idea. And I encourage you to do so. Also, any website or blog owner can put a banner on their website that reads "site censored" which basically displays the possible risk that the government could censor any website. You may notice that I have put that black banner on my blog as well. If you would like more information on why Protect IP is a dangerous threat to American freedom, you can visit American Censorship Day's website. 


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