Liberty, freedom, privacy and civil liberties are all up for grabs when it comes to the Internet and its usage. Governments the world over have been attempting to figure out how to best control the Internet including the U.S. government. Certainly these are concerns for the tech savvy entrepreneur especially in DC.
Several months ago there was a big battle in DC for the passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation. Its basic purpose was to provide U.S. law enforcement agencies the ability to fight online trafficking of copyrighted intellectual property (IP) and counterfeited goods.
In short, it would attempt to stop online piracy. It would do this by allowing various agencies to prohibit advertising networks and online payment services from doing businesses with websites deemed in violation of this proposed legislation.
It would have also allowed for the attainment of court orders preventing Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) from hosting such websites and it would have come with a maximum of up to five years imprisonment for individuals streaming copyrighted materials illegally.
There is similar legislation called PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) as well. In theory SOPA would have been a great addition to the arsenal of government agencies investigating those breaking such laws and provide a means to prosecute them. Unfortunately for the U.S. government many of the major online outlets for commerce and information curation and dissemination did not agree with this move.
It was vehemently protested both in the streets and online. It was seen as another means of the government overreaching and violating free speech, stifling innovation along with having the ability to block an entire domain based on a suspicion of malfeasance. This was problematic at best and certainly lead to the legislation never being passed.
Does this mean that the proposed legislation is dead? Probably not. It will certainly find its way to the congressional floor again in one form or another. More than likely there will be supporting legislation passed to fortify the inevitability of this SOPA arising again.
Once such legislation passed in the House of Representatives on April 29, 2012 is the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA). This newly proposed legislation allows for the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and certain technology and manufacturing companies. The stated aim of the bill is to help the U.S Government investigate cyber threats and ensure the security of networks against cyber attack.
Although this legislation passed in the House of Representatives and it is not law yet. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill as he did with the SOPA legislation. The rise in these types of proposed legislation is very Orwellian and provides the U.S. government far reaching powers when it comes to knowing what people are doing on the Internet, namely its citizens. It leaves one with the sense that our freedoms as American are eroding due to too much legislation in the name of protecting the people for threats known and unknown as the government see it.
When it comes to being a tech entrepreneur this type of legislation creates all sorts of problems. Those in tech getting the most attention these days are companies innovating in the areas of mobile apps, social media and web-based applications. If CISPA were to get past the president, companies not only in DC, but throughout the U.S. would have to be concerned about what this will mean to their business and the future products they bring to market.
According to Dr. Richard Stallman, Software freedom activist, “CISPA 'nearly abolishes' the right not to be unreasonably searched.” The attached video provides additional insight into the law and its potential impact on Internet users per Dr. Stallman.
There is much to consider when looking at the slew of proposed laws going before America’s lawmakers. When it comes to the Internet the fight is very real and it is important that every American citizen remain vocal and vigilant when it comes to all matters of liberty, freedom, privacy and civil liberties. Stay tuned.