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Morning Bell: The Unintended Consequences of Internet Regulation
Posted By Rob Bluey On December 28, 2011 @ 9:58 am In Security | Comments Disabled
Would you be outraged if the Department of Justice shut down The Foundry  without any warning and blocked access for more than a year?
That’s exactly what happened to a hip-hop blog called Dajaz1.com , which was falsely accused of criminal copyright infringement . The blog posted music from artists promoting their work. But federal authorities viewed it differently. They seized the domain name, then shared virtually no information with its owner for more than year. Only recently did they quietly drop the case .
The government’s handling of this hip-hop blog is fueling fears about legislation moving quickly through Congress  that addresses copyright infringement and online piracy.
The Stop Online Piracy Act , or SOPA as it’s known in the House, and the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act  would give the U.S. attorney general the power and authority to block criminal enterprises from trafficking in illegal products online.
Their cause is a noble one. Business incur significant losses when Americans buy counterfeit items. Consumers must also be increasingly vigilant about purchases they make online. Federal authorities shut down more than 150 websites  just last month for pirated goods.
But the two bills making their way through Congress are the wrong solution. They pose serious threats to freedom of speech and expression and raise security concerns . With the Senate possibly voting on the PROTECT IP Act in January and the House moving forward with hearings on SOPA, Americans should understand what’s at stake .
As the case with Dajaz1.com illustrates, the federal government already has the ability to shut down U.S.-based websites. A growing number of so-called “rogue sites” are located outside the United States, however, limiting the government’s ability to block them.
SOPA would give Attorney General Eric Holder and individual intellectual property holders the ability to sue these rogue sites if they were “dedicated to theft of U.S. property.” The government, through a court order, could take these four steps:
“The legislation addresses a legitimate problem,” wrote Heritage’s regulatory policy expert James Gattuso , “but it may have unintended negative consequences for the operation of the Internet and free speech.”
Free speech: The legislation gives the government the authority to tamper with Internet search results by requiring firms like Google to block links to infringing websites. Placing this limit on information providers is troubling and arguably a violation of the First Amendment . Besides, Washington’s appetite for power is uncontrollable, and this would almost certainly lead to a slippery slope of unwanted interference in the future.
Internet security: Criminals would almost certainly discover new ways to circumvent the government’s measures. But the most glaring security problem with SOPA is the damage it would cause to DNSSEC , the new Internet system designed to limit certain crimes. This would jeopardize security across the Internet, potentially creating new challenges.
“The federal government needs to protect intellectual property rights,” Gattuso concluded in his analysis . “But it should do so in a way that does not disrupt the growth of technology, does not weaken Internet security, respects free speech rights, and solves the problem of rogue sites.”
The debate over SOPA is already among the most intense and polarizing taking place in Washington — and rightfully so. With concerns about free speech and Internet security taking center stage, lawmakers would be wise to look at alternatives  when they return in January.
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/12/28/morning-bell-the-unintended-consequences-of-internet-regulation/
URLs in this post:
 The Foundry: http://blog.heritage.org/
 Dajaz1.com: http://dajaz1.com/
 falsely accused of criminal copyright infringement: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111208/08225217010/breaking-news-feds-falsely-censor-popular-blog-over-year-deny-all-due-process-hide-all-details.shtml
 quietly drop the case: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/12/ice-admits-months-long-seizure-of-music-blog-was-a-mistake.ars
 fueling fears about legislation moving quickly through Congress: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20111211/22524417035/congressional-investigations-into-dajaz1com-censorship-begin.shtml
 Stop Online Piracy Act: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:H.R.3261:
 PROTECT IP Act: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.968:
 shut down more than 150 websites: http://www.pcworld.com/article/245045/feds_celebrate_cyber_monday_with_crackdown_on_counterfeiters.html?tk=rel_news
 serious threats to freedom of speech and expression and raise security concerns: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/12/online-piracy-and-sopa-beware-of-unintended-consequences
 Americans should understand what’s at stake: http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57329001-281/how-sopa-would-affect-you-faq/
 arguably a violation of the First Amendment: http://c4sif.org/2011/12/tribe-sopa-is-unconstitutional/
 most glaring security problem with SOPA is the damage it would cause to DNSSEC: http://volokh.com/2011/12/14/sopa-rope-a-dope/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+volokh%2Fmainfeed+%28The+Volokh+Conspiracy%29
 look at alternatives: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/198135-issa-wyden-unveil-competing-online-piracy-bill
 relying on secret facilities and an expanded drone program: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/under-obama-an-emerging-global-apparatus-for-drone-killing/2011/12/13/gIQANPdILP_story.html?hpid=z1
 raise the U.S. borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/201407-obama-will-ask-congress-to-raise-debt-ceiling-by-12b
 Iran’s navy chief threatened on Wednesday to block it off: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g24n7LzTwAtsbznj1JgvSYlgiWyw?docId=478bf3f7a1c44af8b512e533bba8134e
 Home prices in America’s largest cities fell in October: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-housing-prices-20111228,0,541656.story
 A new poll gives an answer that might surprise President Obama.: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/12/27/how-would-americans-help-economy-less-government/
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