Remember CISPA and SOPA? They were two different pieces of legislation that allegedly protected copyright infringement on the Internet. Reports this week are now saying that CISPA is about to be revived in Congress "in its exact form." But do we really need a law that protects copyright and intellectual property infringement?
In a seemingly unrelated event, former Presidential candidate and Congressman Ron Paul is suing (please see correction) the owners of RonPaul.com under a law called DMCA, or Digital Millenium Copyright Act. What is DMCA? DMCA was passed by Congress back in 1998 under the Clinton administration. According to the American Library Association, DMCA,
- imposes rules prohibiting the circumvention of technological protection measures
- sets limitations on copyright infringement liability for online service providers (OSPs)
- expands an existing exemption for making copies of computer programs
- provides a significant updating of the rules and procedures regarding archival preservation
- mandates a study of distance education activities in networked environments
- mandates a study of the effects of anti-circumvention protection rules on the "first sale" doctrine
Congressman Paul is allegedly suing under DMCA claiming the name "Ron Paul" is trademarked and is "intellectual property" of the former Texas Congressman. Aside from the fact that utilizing government force is out of character for Paul (especially where the free market ought to reign), it's interesting to note that a law already exist to protect copyright infringement on the Internet and that proponents of CISPA are peddling protection of copyright infringement as the main purpose of the bill. Ron Paul's suit ironically reveals that Internet copyright already exists.
So what's the big deal about CISPA?
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has played an integral part in warning the general public about the dangers of CISPA and its sister SOPA. Writing for US News, Rainey Reitman of EFF explains the dangers of CISPA this way:
If CISPA were to pass, companies could spy on the electronic communications of millions of Internet users and pass sensitive information to the government with no form of judicial oversight. No guidelines are provided to companies about what data can be collected and transferred, and the bill offers companies sweeping immunities provided they act in "good faith," giving them exemption from liability for all "decisions made" based on "cyberthreat information"—a term the bill leaves nebulous.
In the fight against CISPA and SOPA last year, the late Aaron Swartz led the way in combating and defeating these two bills. Both bills were ostensibly blocked by public outrage over the bills. Aaron Swartz, who created the website DemandProgress.org reportedly committed suicide this past January. Friends and supporters allege that his suicide was a direct result of the government harassing him for his advocacy against cyber spying legislation.
This effects everyone, whether you "have something to hide" or not. In fact, it's an egregious violation of our right to privacy. Granted what one puts out on the Internet is anything but private, CISPA allows the government to see those things that are not immediately available on the Internet and things that you likely want kept private and can even keep you from seeing your favorite website, or worse, shutting down your website.
The good news for New Mexicans is that then Represenatives Heinrich, Pearce, and Lujan, voted against CISPA. Now that Heinrich has been elected to the Senate, however, residents in District 1 need to begin calling on freshman Represenative Michelle Lujan-Grisham to vote against this bill. All New Mexicans should also contact Pearce, Lujan and Senators Udall and Heinrich, to encourage them to stand their ground in opposition to CISPA. Remind them that we already have a law in place designed to protect copyright and intellectual property and that CISPA is merely a ruse for the government to invade the privacy of every American without cause or due process.
The Internet is the truly the last bastion of free speech and true journalism. Is it any wonder that the governments wants to heavily regulate what is put out there in cyberspace?