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Commentary :: Media
Internet Freedom Threatened
06 Nov 2011
Internet Freedom Threatened - by Stephen Lendman

Candidate Obama promised to "(s)upport the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet."

As president, his FCC and congressional extremists threaten it. On May 12, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D. MN) introduced "S. 978: A bill to amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes."

Referred to the Judiciary Committee, June 22 hearings were held. So far, no further action was taken. If enacted, loosely defined unlicensed online streaming becomes illegal, punishable by up to five years in prison.

On May 12, Senator Patrick Leahy (D. VT) introduced "S. 968: Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP)." Referred to the Judiciary Committee, May 26 hearings were held. So far, no further action was taken.

Leahy calls it a measure to "protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments."

In fact, it introduces new censorship provisions that violate First Amendment freedoms, without which all others are at risk.

If enacted, Internet service providers (ISPs), search engines, and other "information location tools" will have to block user access to sites accused of very loosely defined copyright infringement.

On February 6, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R. TX) introduced "SJ Res. 6: A joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications with respect to regulating the Internet and broadband industry practices."

The bill was referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. So far, no further action was taken.

On January 5,  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R. TN) introduced a similar House measure:

"HR 96: Internet Freedom Act: To prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from further regulating the Internet."

The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. So far, no further action was taken.

Reportedly, Obama's also considering a so-called "three strikes" censorship deal, requiring ISPs restrict bandwidth speed, limit web access, and be educated about copyright infringement to prevent piracy.

Candidate Obama made many promises. As president, he broke all major ones that matter, including protecting a free and open Internet. Instead, he made intellectual property protection a priority over Internet freedom.

On October 26, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined, "Disastrous IP Legislation is Back - And It's Worse than Ever," saying:

On October 26, Rep. Lamar Smith (R. TX) introduced "HR 3261: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): To promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of US property, and for other purposes"

Referred to the House Judiciary Committee, no further action so far was taken.

In enacted, SOPA will "not only sabotage the domain name system but would also threaten to effectively eliminate DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) safe harbors" that spur economic growth and online creativity.

Along with Leahy's PROTECT-IP Act, SOPA will force ISPs to "disappear certain websites, endangering Internet security."  

On the pretext of IP enforcement, entire domains may be blacklisted. As a result, thousands will be jeopardized, even ones operating properly.

SOPA language claims no "restraint on free speech" when, in fact, it lawlessly abandons constitutional protections.

Worse still, "service providers (including hosting services)" would be pressured to "monitor and police their users' activities."

Failure to comply "enough" could result in blacklisting, "even without any kind of court hearing....The bill also requires search engines, payment providers (including credit card companies and PayPal), and advertising services" participate in shutting web sites.

Instead of complying with constitutional law and DMCA rules, copyright owners could use this law to shut down sites by cutting off access to their domain names, their "search engine hits," their advertising, and their "other financing even if safe harbor" protections apply.

New streaming provisions would cause further damage.
EFF calls SOPA "the worst piece of IP legislation we've seen in the last decade - and that's saying something," given how much has been introduced.

Bush administration extremists waged war on Internet freedom. Much more happened under his successor pledging to protect it.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D. CA) expressed alarm, saying "I'm still reviewing (SOPA), but from what I've already read, this would mean the end of the Internet as we know it" if enacted.

Leahy's PROTECT-IP is a companion bill. An earlier version was introduced in the Senate last year. At the time, Lofgren said:

"I'm particularly concerned that it could set a precedent for further control and censorship of the Internet by foreign governments, and risk the fragmentation of the global domain name system. Many prominent human rights activists and Internet engineers have voiced these concerns, and they deserve serious consideration."

Influential high-tech companies like Google and Yahoo strongly oppose SOPA. Some critics call it the E-Parasite Act. House leaders promised to correct PROTECT-IP flaws. SOPA's are worse by creating ill-defined sweeping new liability standards designed to censor.

If enacted, media companies will have unprecedented new powers. Internet freedom will be jeopardized. So will a free and open society.

Its provisions will empower the Attorney General to cut off access and funding for alleged "parasite" foreign sites. Domestic ones are also affected.

An Internet czar would decide if US interests are harmed. Once judgments are made, copyright/trademark rules apply. Court orders would force providers and others to block "parasite" sites.

Broadly defined search engines, payment processors and advertisers would be forced to cut ties with them. Non-offenders will face enormous challenges to reverse actions taken. Prosecutors need only claim that the value of content allegedly affected exceeds $1,000.

Avoiding felony convictions would require defendants to prove they committed no violations. A high bar would impede success.

Unlike under DMCA rules, SOPA provides minimal redress for erroneously targeting web sites committing no infractions. Penalties would only apply if claimants "knowingly materially misrepresent." Guilt is defined as being "dedicated to theft of US property."

EFF believes SOPA is so deeply flawed it can't be fixed. Killing it is the only option.

On October 27, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) called "(d)omain-name filtering....a blunt instrument." PROTECT-IP "raise(s) serious problems.” SOPA is worse.

"Gone is any serious effort to narrowly target clear 'bad actors' " in very destructive legislation. The bill imposes "sweeping new risks and responsibilities on websites offering legitimate online services...."

It also lets a "new club" challenge alleged copyright infringers. The bill "mark(s) a radical departure from core legal principles embedded in (DMCA rules and) secondary liability jurisprudence. Abandoning those principles would pose major risks for online innovation, free expression, and the open nature of the Internet."

SOPA damages "the entire Internet ecosystem." Copyright infringement concerns are legitimate. Congress, however, needs entirely new provisions to "avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water."

Net Neutrality is the last frontier of press freedom. SOPA, PROTECT-IP, others discussed above, and earlier ones introduced but not passed want to destroy it.

Post-9/11, police state and other destructive laws put America on a fast track toward tyranny. Compromising Internet freedom accelerates its.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen (at)

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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