America is doomed.

Some of you may have heard of the PROTECT IP Act (link provided to the latest draft that I know of – 5/19/2011) and how some big corporations (RIAA vs Google) have been duking it out over whether this bill should be legalized. Now most common folk aren’t going to understand much about what this bill means so I’ll try to point you towards sources that break the bill down into layman’s terms. First off, the PROTECT IP Act is the successor to the failed COICA bill (which can be seen as the US version of ACTA), both of which were introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. If you want to read about why ACTA and COICA failed, be my guest. There are tons of articles out there discussing how horrid those bills are and why they should not pass. I would like to talk about the PROTECT IP Act and how it is a sign of America’s downfall.

First off, straight from the bill itself, is the soul and purpose of the bill:

To prevent online threats to economic creativity and theft of intellectual property, and for other purposes.

For now, I’m going to ignore the “and for other purposes” part since that is so goddamn vague (Honestly? “other purposes?”.) Instead, we shall talk about the lofty goals of this bill and why it is being pushed. Big corporations like the RIAA, MPAA, etc. have lobbied the government to push for laws that will help them protect their intellectual property from things like piracy and… well yeah, the big thing is piracy (torrents, file sharing, etc.). Protecting their works of art is fine but why use such generic language? If this quote is truly the goal of the bill, then it should allow all rightsholders, those controlled by big corporations (a la the RIAA), and individuals, like indie bands, bloggers, freelance artists, etc., to be able to protect their creative works from theft. I mean, that is the goal right?

Wrong.

If you read through the bill, it immediately becomes clear that this bill is meant to stop rogue websites that promote piracy per the bill’s definition. Of course what they don’t tell you is that the bill’s definition is sufficiently broad enough to encompass search engines–Google, Bing, Yahoo, as well. Now you’d think, “Hey this will help individuals like us right?” Well yes and no.

After doing “due diligence” in contacting said website, you’d have to go to the courts and wait for them to approve your notice for take down. Great… except for the court fees, legal documents, and the fact that being an individual means you’d have to wait for the court to get to your file. Once that happens, you better hope you don’t get taken to court as there is nothing in the bill to protect you from having to fight your way through a lengthy court battle that you probably can’t pay for. The amount of legal crap rightsholders will have to go through, while justified as being required, is completely unfeasible for individuals.

The true goal of this bill is that it allows “qualifying plaintiffs” that have either money or power to push their agenda through without having to wait. Obviously big corporations like the RIAA get a huge edge here but the real concern is that Attorney Generals have also been given the same rights as rightsholders. Weird because their position allows them to bypass any sort of waiting period and the worst part: there is no language specifying who the Attorney Generals represent. They aren’t directly representing any specific rightsholders, and they can use the power granted by this bill to just take down websites based on what they believe to be “theft.” This is essentially no different than what is happening with the Department of Homeland Security and the ICE take downs which have already hit many innocent websites to which the DHS has already fessed up.

So America is doomed.

The government is trying to push a law that:

  • Allows Attorney Generals to immediately take down any website they want based on what they perceive to be theft. Theft being anything they think infringes on some form of intellectual property.
    1. Allows big corporations (RIAA, MPAA, newspapers, etc.) to take down any websites they believe infringe on their rights. If the take down was done in bad faith? You’d have to prove it before getting your site back in a lengthy court battle that you surely cannot afford. Goodbye bloggers.
  • Allows individual rightsholders from not being able to do the reverse and barely helping them from stopping people from pirating their works. Is a newspaper copying your blog? Well too fucking bad. All they have to do is respond to your request to remove the infringing material and then do nothing about it because taking them to court over what constitutes “due diligence” is not something you can afford.

In what way does this help individual rightsholders? In the end, all this does is give the government more power to silence free speech (yes, you are right Google and thank you for not sugar coating the situation) and further enhance the power of big corporations. This will hurt you, me, and every goddamn person who makes the foundation of this country. If you want to fight back, now is the time because once this bill passes, there is no fucking thing you can do to stop the government as they are giving themselves immunity (quoted from the bill):

(B) IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY.—Any en-20 tity receiving an order under this subsection, 21 and any director, officer, employee, or agent 22 thereof, shall not be liable to any party for any 23 acts reasonably designed to comply with this 24 subsection or reasonably arising from such 25 order, other than in an action pursuant to sub-13 GRA11400 S.L.C. 1 section (e), and any actions taken by customers 2 of such entity to circumvent any restriction on 3 access to the Internet domain instituted pursu-4 ant to this subsection or any act, failure, or in-5 ability to restrict access to an Internet domain 6 that is the subject of a court order issued pur-7 suant to this subsection despite good faith ef-8 forts to do so by such entity shall not be used 9 by any person in any claim or cause of action 10 against such entity, other than in an action 11 pursuant to subsection (e).

Of course, the media is so focused on the big names fighting over this bill that no one is bothering to listen to individuals. Distracting language is being used to draw attention away from how this bill does jack shit for the rest of us. Isn’t it a fun time to be an American? Even if we try to fight for our rights, no one is listening anyway. It’s like they’re already gone.

 

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