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Internet pioneers protest Senate anti-piracy bill

Some of the rock stars of Internet engineering (yes, they exist) on Tuesday protested a Senate bill aimed at fighting online piracy, saying the legislation could lead to censorship and destabilize the architecture of the Web.

In their letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the 89 engineers said a bill proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would block the domain names for sites that engage in piracy and copyright infringement threatens to cause far-reaching harm.

Specifically, early Internet systems creator David Reed and others said the bill could destabilize the domain name system used as an underlying infrastructure for the Web. The engineers said the measure could wipe out entire domain names, which are used to translate sites like into the Internet addresses used by computers to communicate with each other.

“Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill,” they wrote. (Others letter signers include: Paul Vixie, president of the Internet Systems Consortium; Jim Gettys, editor of the HTTP/1.1 protocol standards; Bill Jennings, who was VP of Engineering at Cisco for 10 years; and Gene Spafford, a professor at Purdue who analyzed the first major Internet worm.)

“If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure,” according to the letter.

Called the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act,” Leahy’s bill would allow the Justice Department to block the domain names for sites focused mainly on the sale of pirated movies and music and counterfeit pharmaceuticals and other consumer goods. Leahy, the Judiciary committee chairman, said piracy and counterfeiting have led to an estimated $100 billion in lost revenues for American businesses.

He said the legislation, introduced Sept. 20 and co-signed by senior member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will “protect the investment American companies make in developing brands and creating content and will protect the jobs associated with those investments.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that opposes the bill, said there are already laws in place to take down sites that violate the law. The bill would give the Justice Department greater power to block sites, even before a court determines if they are illegally infringing copyright. Through “blacklists” of U.S. and international sites, the bill would pressure Internet service providers to block those Web pages that engage in piracy and counterfeiting, EFF said.

“This is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet,” EFF legal analyst Richard Esguerra wrote last week..

By Cecilia Kang  | September 28, 2010; 9:45 PM ET
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Oh wow, OK dude that makes a lot of sense .


Posted by: clermontpc | September 28, 2010 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Google and most search engines, who largely ignore DMCA Take Down notices, though their ad syndication networks provide the framework and financing for widespread, commercial infringing activities globally. 60% of the infringing activity noticed on our system is to sites that are ad sharing partners with Google and other search engines. Google and others are systematically monetizing infringed content by efficiently locating the infringed content and steering potential consumers through search results to the location where the infringed content can be obtained. And then monetizing, through advertising, all of the traffic that is generated from this loop of activity. Most of these sites provide no functioning DMCA agent access and do not respond to notices. When a notice is sent to Google and Bing to remove an infringing link to these sites, they are largely ignored or not processed for weeks or months.

This is due to the confluence three factors:

a. The Construct of the DMCA as it relates to Search Engine Safe Harbor. The term "expeditiously" has no affirmative legal meaning or reliable precedent.

b. The inability of a rights holder to bring a "civil action for infringement" until receipt of the copyright certificate is in hand under 411a.

c. The two years it takes for the copyright office to process a certificate.

If Congress would focus on better articulating a.and b., it is our opinion that favorable, systemic behavioral change would result.

1. The search engines would no longer be able to formulate defenses based on the ambiguous ruling across the 11th and 5th Circuits related to 411a.

2. With search engine owned ad networks being the principal conduit of monetization of global infringment activity, the result of very minor changes to 411a would afford victims broader access to perfected rights under U.S. Copyright Law.

3. Rights holders would be able to effectively prosecute the search engine's refusal to act expeditiously concerning the removal of infringed links at the very point of consumer access if the term expeditiously is precisely defined.

It is our opinion that a modification of search engine response to infringement notices would result due to the imminent risks of the loss of Safe Harbor in the cases of inaction without the buffer of judicial ambiguity as stated above.

Ultimately, the ability for infringing sites to monetize traffic would diminish resulting in a decrease of global infringement and be a benefit to the public and rights holders, globally.

It is our opinion that the DMCA should work. Congress could more effectively legislate meaningful, less controversial change if it would close the loophole enabling the search engines to ignore notices by addressing the deficiencies of 411a.


David Wallace Cox
MiMTiD Corp.

Posted by: DavidWallaceCox | September 29, 2010 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Filtering out web addresses will never work because filtered websites will simply change their names to avoid filtration. When is the community going to recognize that music and movies are free and will FOREVER be free and there's NOTHING that you can do to stop us!?
Mark Montgomery NYC, NY

Posted by: boboberg | September 29, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

Some of those folks aren't engineers, such as Esther Dyson and Noel Humphreys. Also, many prominent internet engineers who are active today did not sign, such as Vint Cerf, Scott Bradner, and Dave Farber.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | September 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

What's on the internet should be free to all (what ever the user can get free from the internet, that is).
If you make it where you have to pay to see or buy, then by all means.

But the CENSORSHIP of any kind, in this case the "internet" with claims of piracy and what-not (oh, the loss of income for those milbillionairs, of course) will not make us better or move us into the future freely.
Government appears to be protecting only the milbillionaires and their empire with no care about the regular consumer at large.
Make sure you pay a $1,000.00 for one of them name brand purses and if anything looks like it and sells for $10 or $100 it's copyright infringement. If you are poor, just make your own purses with ziplock bags.
How dare you buy something cheap and lessen the Profit of the Greedy?
The government will bust you for making, selling or buying the affordable stuff because it just won't do for the poor to go around feeling good with a cheap look alike.

Posted by: SOCIETY1 | September 29, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

I thought Hollywood was for the little people. Turns out when their interests are threatened Hollywood responds the same way Hollywood portrays other industries in their movies. The music and film industry receives shelter by way of the government thanks to influential lobbying -- only difference is the entertainment industry has the propaganda tools to make you focus instead on financial, tobacco and energy firms or everyone except for them.

Posted by: damnsignups | September 29, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

The whole point of this proposed legislation is to allow the government to shut down sites it doesn't like with the bother and tedium of having to do it lawfully.

If a site is breaking the law, shut it down, arrest the lawbreakers and throw them in jail. Isn't this why we pay for the police, the DOJ, investigative operations, to protect us? It's not as if the police don't know who these people are -- after all, they're **advertising themselves on the web**. But they're not interested in protecting -us- -- we're just ordinary citizens.

Fact is, the WashPost's tech columnist has shut down more phishers and malware and illegal websites than all the DoJ's efforts in the past five years; and he does it in his column just by shining a light on the little squirming mass, and showing it for what it is.

Posted by: whatthe2 | September 30, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

...that should be "without the bother". Sorry.

Posted by: whatthe2 | September 30, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

The Internet, scanner radio and amateur radio are dead. Why? Because they require brains, intelligence and imagination. Politicians and the FCC only support brainless wonders these days. Got to protect those that are impressionable.

Posted by: n7uno | October 1, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

It seems the RIAA envies the communists and dictators of the world.

This is yet another reason for me not to buy music. I don't steal it, I just don't buy it anymore. I would rather go without than fund them.

Posted by: Nymous | October 1, 2010 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Copyright infringement is hardly the boogie man people like Mr. Cox make it out to be.

What's crazy is that Copyright laws were originally intended to shut down commercial copyright infringement have now come 180 degrees and are used primarily to combat non-commercial sharing of copyrighted material.

That was never the intent of the laws!

Worse, infringement on the level that companies like (Yes you Mr. Cox) would like will reach deeply into your computer, your personal lives, and do nothing except make large media companies richer.

Every time guys like Mr. Cox and the RIAA/MPAA trot out "the poor starving artist", you know they're lying.

This should not even be a debate. We have serious economic, energy, and long term structural problems in this country, and we're wasting our time giving away our freedoms just so Media companies can do better. Shame on you Mr. Cox.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | October 1, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

MiMTiD Corp. provides "anti-piracy" software and thus is biased. Comments by Mr. Cox thus should be taken with a grain of salt. He has skin in this game.

Further, the heart of the DMCA, its draconian fines, is unconstitutional. See Sony BMG Music, et al, v. Tenebaum, Civil Action No. 07cv11446-NG (D. Mass, July 9, 2010). The United States District Court ruled that the DMCA fines are--

"wholly out of proportion with the government’s legitimate interests in compensating the plaintiffs and deterring unlawful file-sharing. No plausible rationale can be crafted to support the award. It cannot withstand scrutiny under the Due Process Clause."

Id. at 61.

Of course, Congress is not bound by the Constitution, only by campaign contributions (from Hollywood, in this case).

Posted by: Garak | October 1, 2010 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Internet pioneers. Wasn't that the Englishman Berners Lee?

Posted by: clivef | October 1, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

From Bitter_Bill above (and worth repeating) "Some of those folks aren't engineers, such as Esther Dyson and Noel Humphreys. Also, MANY PROMINENT INTERNET ENGINEERS WHO ARE ACTIVE TODAY DID NOT SIGN, such as Vint Cerf, Scott Bradner, and Dave Farber."

In the bricks-and-mortar world, a business that was violating the law might be encased in yellow "Police Line: Do Not Cross" tape even though such yellow tape doesn't prevent the business from relocating its illegal operations. The same is true of the proposed domain name blocking: as even its detractors note, the proposed blocking mechanism has a limited effect. But isn't a limited effect the desired effect? Certainly, Congress has the responsibility to protect the rights of intellectual property holders being raped by the criminals who steal music, movies, documents, and other intellectual content: the least intrusive mechanism -- the method which most resembles existing brick-and-mortar enforcement actions -- seems to be the best available option.

Posted by: rmgregory | October 1, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

For David Cox:

With regard to the Copyright Office. They are dancing as fast as they can with a system inadequate to the demands of modern publishing. Their staff is too small to cope with the increase in applications promoted by the ease with which one can attempt to join the money-makers of the self-publishing world.

Posted by: Geezer4 | October 1, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

A large part of the problem is that copyright and other intellectual property laws have run roughshod over common sense. These laws expanding control over "intellectual property" have largely been passed at the behest of large corporations, particularly Disney, and have lost sight of the real societal interest that such laws serve -- to reward and stimulate technological innovation and artistic creativity.

Movies and music are hugely profitable. Indeed, the more extremely profitable they are, the likelier they are to be pirated. These profits are not threatened by "internet piracy" (a very colorful phrase for nothing more serious in a real sense than loaning a book to a neighbor).

Bringing patent and copyright law back into line with common sense and with its original purposes, and the problem with "piracy" will fade, not so much decline in frequency but instead decline in perception as some kind of threat.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | October 1, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Mr Cox claims "Google and most search engines, who largely ignore DMCA Take Down notices "

That's certainly not what I hear. In fact, the complaints I hear are that sites *do* honor takedown requests, and very quickly and this leads to takedown-abuse by certain companies and individuals. They do so because otherwise they lose their safe-harbor protection.

Perhaps Mr Cox would care to offer some evidence to support his claim??

Posted by: vdev | October 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

We'll see who wins this one... average Americans or big money?

It may just be the last straw...

Posted by: kkrimmer | October 1, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

There is reason that live concert ticket prices are thru the roof - unlike the music, you can't upload or download the concert experience. Used to be concert tix cost $20-50, now easily double that.

This is but a small part of the larger problem in the country where you can now be famous for being famous, hardly anyone actually makes anything (most manufacturing has moved overseas), and students in school spend more time in class updating their facebook page or downloading someone else's work for free, than actually preparing to do something, anything useful with their life.

Perhaps you may want to take and actually pay attention in Chinese class because at this rate you'll need to be able to speak the language after the own you.

Posted by: blackbear336 | October 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

The biggest problem is that the groups that want this bill have not learned that it you lower the prices you will sell more and should make more money in the long run. They want premium prices for junk and have not gotten into the digital age. In the digital age all that is need is/are a few "gold disks" that can be distributed electronically. No manufacturing or distribution costs. What they currently want to sell for $20 plus could be sold for a fraction of that electronically. Consider a supply chain where each gets 30%. Dealer 100%, next 70%, next 49%, next 34% of the MSRP. Doesn't take long for very little being made and then movies or songs could easily be sold at 1/3 of the current price.

Posted by: gmclain | October 1, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

gmclain - You hit part of the nail on the head! Dinosaur distribution refuses to evolve.

Take into account also - like who is going to police this? Accusations? You'll have competitors accusing one another for "infringement" and digital theft just to close down their competition.

FREE WEB - free of politicians especially.

Posted by: tweetThis | October 1, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Talk about your pork barrel lies, tying this into jobs:

"He said the legislation, introduced Sept. 20 and co-signed by senior member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), will “protect........and will protect the jobs .....”

If they pass this say goodbye to the internet and hello to government control of what you will see and think just like China and other countries sitting behind govt approved firewalls ignorant of the rest of the world or anything their govt is unwilling for them to know about or participate in.

Your freedom is next on their agenda.

Big money trying to protect itself with an impossible goal of policing and blocking websites.

Tell your congressman just say no.

Posted by: tweetThis | October 1, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

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