The PROTECT-IP bill is making its way through the halls of the United States government, and besides an unfortunate name change, the bill has been altered by the House of Representatives in such a way, it would essentially allow the government and/or various corporations that feel infringed upon the ability to censor the Internet in whatever way they see fit.
Should the United States government be allowed to censor the Internet to fit their own whims and desires? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Perhaps that last part is wrapped in some hyperbole, but then again, after reading portions of the updated bill, as well as some of the reactions to it, it's pretty clear that, if passed, the American public could soon be using a very different version of the Internet than what we're used to. The sad thing is, besides a small section of informed reactions to the bill, very few in the American public seem to know and/or care about the implications of PROTECT-IP, which, thanks to input from House of Representatives, now goes by the unfortunately-named E-PARASITE Act.
Here's an embed of the document, although, it's doubtful anyone outside of the tech/Internet sector will actually concern themselves with it:
Even search engines like Google are affected by the contents of the bill. When discussing foreign sites that have been suspected of infringement, the bill's text reads:
INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES
A provider of an Internet search engine shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures, as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within 5 days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order, designed to prevent the foreign infringing site that is subject to the order, or a portion of such site specified in the order, from being served as a direct hypertext link.
Which sounds an awful lot like if a Google search returns a link to a site like The Pirate Bay, they will be asked to remove and/or block the link, thanks to a government order. Over at TechDirt, such governmental actions are being compared to the creation of a Great Firewall of America, obviously taking its queue from China's iron fist control of Internet content its citizens have access to.
It should also be noted that foreign sites deemed as being an infringement tool are not given any due process to protect/defend the property. ArsTechnica has more:
The bill gives government lawyers the power to go to court and obtain an injunction against any foreign website based on a generally single-sided presentation to a judge. Once that happens, Internet providers have 5 days to "prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site."
Furthermore, the bill would make programs like the MafiaaFire Redirector, something Mozilla has already successfully backed in the face of Homeland Security pressure, would now be illegal. For those who may not know, when a user tries to access a site that's been taken down by the ICE squad, those with the MafiaaFire Redirector plugin are redirected to an alternate domain for the ICE'd site.
Under PROTECT-IP/E-PARASITES, such a program would be under attack from the Attorney General:
To ensure compliance with orders issued pursuant to this section, the Attorney General may bring an action for injunctive relief... against any entity that knowingly and willfully provides or offers to provide a product or service designed or marketed for the circumvention or bypassing...
And these scenarios are just some of the nonsense being introduced in the bill that would give the government power to censor the Internet towards its own desires, all in an effort to protect what TechDirt refers to as "a few legacy companies in the entertainment industry refuse to adapt."
If you are unaware of the implications of PROTECT-IP/E-PARASITE, allow the following video to educate you:
Now, before the replies of "you just want to be able to pirate without worry" start pouring in, it should be noted that I have downloaded before, but that's not what my perspective is about. If I get caught, I'm not going to blame the site that hosted the torrent/file/content I stole. I did the crime, so I should have to pay the price for being caught, and that's something I've long understood.
It's not Pirate Bay's fault I download files, it's mine, a stance that should clue you in on my position towards censoring the Internet.
The sad thing is, if you walked down the street of any city in America, asking people their thoughts on the bill, it's doubtful you'd get much in the way of meaningful reaction. Sure, a few would be informed, but by and large, as long as American Internet users can access Facebook and Twitter, as well as throwaway nonsense like TMZ, they don't seem to be very interested in informing themselves about who is governing the Internet and the intentions behind the rules being passed.
With that in mind, when reading about PROTECT-IP, I'm reminded of the following scene from Revenge of the Sith:
However, instead of applause, it seems that apathy or ignorance rules the day. Where are the #Occupy crowds when you really need them? In other news, considering the powerful telecommunications lobbyists, and the sway they have over the US Government, one wonders why Google hasn't tried to grease the wheels in favor of an uncensored Internet instead of just hanging out with the Net Coalition crew.
How much control is too much? Let us know what you think.