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Save Jobs and Online Dissent: Oppose S.968 (Yes, I Mean You, Tim Johnson!)

Hey, Tony Post! Instead of manufacturing false allegations of lawbreaking, why not challenge Senator Tim Johnson on a real policy issue? Senator Johnson signed on this month as a co-sponsor of S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, an offensive little bill that gives sweeping Internet censorship powers to the Attorney General.

The entertainment industry is pushing this bill to empower the government to shut down websites that allow the sharing of intellectual property that infringes on copyright. But the broadly written bill makes it all too easy for the government to use accusations of copyright infringement to shut down social media websites that dissidents may use to criticize the government and organize protests. S. 968 empowers the Attorney General to block access to websites without giving site owners their day in court. Tea Partiers and Occupiers alike ought to be alarmed by that sort of unchecked government censorship.

Rep. Kristi Noem ought also be alarmed by the House version of this bill, just introduced last week. If she's worried about job-killing regulations, this bill is exactly that. Numerous tech industry leaders and entrepreneurs have declared this easily abused bill "will hurt economic growth and chill innovation in legitimate services that help people create, communicate, and make money online."

Senator Johnson, you can easily strike your name from the list of sponsors of this bad legislation. Rep. Noem, you can easily vote this turkey down in alignment with your stated principles of freedom and job promotion. Keep your darned government hands off our Internet!


  1. Michael Black 2011.10.30

    There is already law in place. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows for the shutdown of sites by sending a letter to an ISP with documentation of the infringement. Let's say you posted an image or news content taken from another site on this blog. Your ISP could be served a letter demanding the blog be taken down until you removed the offending material AND it doesn't matter if it is legally under the umbrella of "fair use". You have to fight that out later on.

  2. larry kurtz 2011.10.30

    Hey, where'd the War Toilet go?

  3. tonyamert 2011.10.30

    If you read this bill they do limit the potential scope of this power by saying that the site must not have any other use other than to infringe. I.E. if someone were to post instructions on how to crack the kindle encryption method in your comments your site couldn't come done just for that offense. So it isn't nearly as arbitrary as you make it sound here.

    Also, this isn't the "tech" industry. This doesn't impact patents or anything else. This is exclusively about copyright. The concerns those "tech" companies have is about how to comply with take down requests, which should be comically trivial to implement.

    Lastly, the reason that there isn't some due process clause here is that the internet works on overdrive. Put up some pirated movies and millions of people can download them in hours. The content industry desperately wants to protect its property. This is definitely misguided, but its how they are approaching the problem.

  4. larry kurtz 2011.10.30

    Drat, they're back. Golly winkies, Cory: This is a Democrat-driven bill. How could someone not love something called 'The Protect IP Act?'

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.10.30

    So Tony, doesn't DMCA already cover this? And do we have enough assurance that a cranky government won't use this law to shut down dissent?

  6. Douglas Wiken 2011.10.30

    Intrusions of privacy, etc from the acts supposed to be against terrorism are routinely used by law enforcement for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

    Governments of all kinds or all parties will stretch the meanings and use of restrictive laws to extents perhaps never guessed by the legislators writing them or voters supporting those legislators.

    Johnson needs to be questioned without remorse by the press that is given constitutional freedoms to serve us.

  7. tonyamert 2011.10.31


    As I read it, the key difference here is that this gives attorney generals the ability to take down entire domains. The DMCA requires a notice per page (per unique URL). To circumvent this, certain domains are taking down pages and then putting up new ones with new sub URL's from the base domain with the same content. So the idea here is that for particularly offending domains this would give AG's the ability to nuke the whole thing to prevent these shenanigans. Now, of course everyone with even a little bit of technical know how understands that this is just a game of whack a mole. The offenders just buy a new domain and they are back in business. But regardless, that is why this is different from the DMCA.

    Now, onto government abuse. Attorney generals are incredibly busy. If you hassle them for something it better be important because they have very little time. Accordingly, I tend to think that this will not be abused because the group with the power is small and has a million other things to do. And they are on the hook for it if they screw up.

    Now, if you're asking me if I think this is a "good thing", of course it isn't. It's a waste of everyone's time. This is just another group of techno-literacy-lacking group of people trying to apply rules that might work in the real world to the internet.

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