US Copyright Czar: Expect More Domain Censorship

from the free-speech-ain't-free dept

The US “IP Czar,” Victoria Espinel, said at a conference this week that Homeland Security’s seizure of a bunch of domain names was apparently just the beginning of a larger plan to go after such folks. Espinel has been making the rounds over the past few months, working to get various companies to voluntarily start censoring websites in this manner, even without the COICA bill being in place. This isn’t really a surprise. Espinel has stated in the past that her job is to focus on the enforcement side of copyright law, so it’s no surprise she’s supportive of such seizures.

What’s scary, though, is the fact that she doesn’t seem willing to recognize how these seizures appear to go way past “enforcing” copyright law, and move into blatant censorship. In her comments, she noted that “We are going after the piraters and counterfeiters,” but she seems to ignore that caught in that net are perfectly legitimate search engines and (more seriously) blogs with plenty of non-infringing content. If that’s not the definition of prior restraint and blatant government censorship, I don’t know what is.

What’s sad is that Espinel has appeared in the past as someone who actually recognized these issues — and while she’s under a lot of pressure from the entertainment industry lobbyists who apparently get to write her performance reports — if these sorts of activities keep up, she’s going to go down as the US’s chief censor. What a shame.

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Comments on “US Copyright Czar: Expect More Domain Censorship”

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33 Comments
Josh Taylor says:

In other words, Deviantart could be seized despite that there are so such fan works (fan art and fan fiction) uploaded there. Then you have Fanart Central, Media Miner, and Fanfiction (dot) Net for hosting fan works as well. If the original author of his/her art or book is being harmed by being harmed by a single piece of fan art or fan fiction, a site that is responsible for hosting fan works is blacklisted.

Plus, the Copyright Czar would start giving phone companies the authority as the “Phone Police” to listen in on your calls in case you quote a character from a TV show, cartoon, anime, or movie would not only be copyright infringement, but also trademark infringement.

Also, the Copyright Czar would give the DOJ, FBI, MPAA, and RIAA the authority to watch you through wireless surveillance cameras in case you, a family member, friend or relative tries to sing a copyrighted song in the shower copy a trademarked cartoon character off the TV, tracing a trademarked character off a comic book or manga would violate, dare I say it again, copyright and trademark infringement no matter if it’s “fair use”. And the copyright czar can do it even without ACTA or COICA.

“Fair use” nothing but a made-up word to steal and plagiarize someone’s intellectual property.

Paul says:

Re: Re: your post

AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks for saying that. It is minor, but I have seen so many morons comments today on other sites re Wikileaks– everyone needs a civics lesson and even still, their logic has been co-opted by fear, spin and/or propaganda by the US. Strangely, the only guy I like to watch on TV is on FOX (and I hate FOX), but that judge guy is a great free-thinking Libertarian who knows whats up… Anyway… just needed to get that out.. Going insane from all this corruption and deliberate disinformation of the masses.

Anonymous Coward says:

The registrars are going to *love* this

If having a gTLD (.com, .net, .org, …) puts your domain at a risk of seizure under badly-specified conditions (oh, that stock photo you bought was not authorized to be sold by the original photographer? Too bad it is not your fault, your domain is now gone!), people will start to avoid buying them and instead buy ccTLDs (country-code TLDs, for instance .de, .nl, .ch…).

The registrars who sell gTLD domain names are really going to like taking a hit on their income.

Chargone (profile) says:

actually, when you compare this to the actions of chief censors in countries that actually have that post…

it’s substantially worse.

(Actual Cheif Censors mostly have their hands full going through all the movies, games, and porn people want to import/sell on a large scale and making sure none of it violates the law, thus not having time for this sort of silliness except by direct order from higher ranking members of the system… who can usually be booted a lot more easily)

Ryan Diederich says:

They were only successful...

…in preventing me from purchasing anything from them, ever, in my life.

I am 20 years old. For the next 60 years, I will never buy a large label CD, I will never buy a large company movie, I will never ever ever.

Nor will any of my friends, as long as they listen to my ‘rhetoric’.

And I certainly wont be going to spain any time soon, haha

Darryl says:

Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

Mike, Why do you use the term censorship,

You either know that is not true, and are willing to lie to enable you to use such an emotive term. Or you are ignorant, and you really do not understand that copyright, and copyright law is not censorship or censorship law.

So which is it, lie or stupid ? they are your only choices !

Perhaps you think you can explain to us how censorship is the same as copyright ?

I really cant believe that you display this lack of knowledge in the BASICS.. I guess you must think your readers are equally stupid ?

Censorship laws are not applied here, nor is the subject matters censor rating under question.

So are you saying the copyright czar is censoring a G rated kids movie ? because it closes a web site that is hosting a copy of that movie in breach of copyright law ?

How does that work Mike ?

Has that Bamby movie been reclassified as XXX rated and therefore not allowed ?

No, Mike, that would be stupid would’t it ??

So its not censorship, except inside Mikes mind, who is either stupid, ignorant, or outright lying to make a biased point..

which is it Mike, Stupid or ignorant ?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

Perhaps you think you can explain to us how censorship is the same as copyright ?

When the domain name for a series of popular blogs are shut down, by government action, without a trial, because *some* of the music available on the site may be infringing, that’s called censorship, Darryl.

The question is not about saying copyright is the same as censorship. It’s about large amounts of non-infringing content being blocked due to government action without a trial. That is, very much, censorship.

Darryl says:

Re: Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

they still are not using censorship laws applied to copyright as you claim.

They are using copyright law only, There is no censorship, and there is no issue with what was said in those blogs to be said elsewhere, without issue.

Sure, the same domain that enables an illegal activity, loses its right to that activity.

But again, you are showing a confustion between the two different sets of laws.. Just because you have something legal along with something illegal. Does not mean that you’re legal activities ensures you’re right to conduct the illegal activities.

And you know this Mike,

They are not censoring anything, they are not censoring any content that is not copyrighted by someone else. And they are not shutting down domains that contain blogs and other info that do not contain copyright material.

So how again, has this got anything at all to do with censorship.. Nothing is censored, nothing is rated, censorship laws are not applied.

Copyright law is applied, and the tools to enable the crime to be commited are conficated.

So do you think if they raided a CD burning house, making pirate copies of a movie or music, would they only confiscate the CD that are allready burned ? or would they take the blank DVD’s and CD, the label printers, the burners, the computers, the master copies ?

Or would you expect the police to let them keep all that stuff, or the tools or their trade..

Or are you saying as long as you host some blogs and other stuff, its ok for you to break copyright law ?

Which is it Mike ?

The Anti-Darryl says:

Re: Re: Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

You should really step away from the keyboard, Darryl. Your IQ seems to drop with each posting.

I’ll try to spell it out for you in a way that your simplistic mind can understand, ok? Pay attention as I will speak very s-l-o-w-l-y for you.

You see, there is already a process for the removal of copyrighted material online. It’s called a takedown notice. Most all internet sites comply and remove the infringing material when asked. Often these sites can be blogs or forums where much discussion is involved. When a takedown process is executed properly in the ways the law intended, the discussions and opinions are left intact, freedom of speech and expression remains, and there is no censorship (at least not in such a blatant sense).

However, domain seizure is an attempt to remove the site completely off the web. Not just the infringing material, but all the opinions, speech, and discussions as well. THIS is censorship.

Now, I hope I’ve clarified things for you, especially the “BASICS”.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

“I’ll try to spell it out for you in a way that your simplistic mind can understand, ok? Pay attention as I will speak very s-l-o-w-l-y for you.”

Next time speak slowly and loudly, use hand signals, and a couple pictures done in bright coloured crayon might not be a bad idea.

The eejit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

That’s different, and you know it. The blanks show intent to copy and infringe. The issue here is that letigimate music blogs are having their domains seized for ‘infringing’ copyright for music that was given to them.

This is censorship, plain and simple.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: RE: Uggg... Are you a shill or are you really this dense? (was: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different)

Ugggg…..

Can you really be this dense? You seem to be purposely misconstruing the argument (straw man anyone?) and then argue that in your interpretation of the argument, Mike is wrong.

I would like to apologize in advance to Mike. Hopefully, this is for the benefit of those reading this, including Darryl;

Censorship does not equal copyright. No one’s ever said that they were (at least in this conversation so far) except Darryl. Censorship is the keeping of information away from people usually by some one or some organization with power. It may of may not be backed by a system (like Movie ratings) or by various laws.

Copyright is an idea, backed by law, that the government can increase the production and availability of public domain works by giving a government monopoly over certain uses of a work (book, photo, painting, etc.) to their authors.

Currently copyright is causing more harm than good. Copyright has passed from the hands of authors (and in this group I am including songwriters, artists, sculptors and other creators of copyrightable items) to third parties, such as publishers and others. The term of copyright has been extended to such a degree, that contrary to its intended purpose, it actually starving the public domain. It is being forced upon everyone, such that it applies even to those that don’t want it’s protection. This further starves the public domain and introduces the tragedy of orphaned works.

On order for copyright to be legal under the freedoms granted to the people under the first amendment of the Constitution it can’t protect and idea, only the particular structure of that idea and it has to allow for “fair use”. Fair Use are those uses the public wishes to make of a protected work regardless of the wishes of the copyright holder. Fair Use is a complicated legal matter that can only be decided by a judge after reviewing the particular facts of a particular use.

Currently, under the much maligned DMCA, there is a process by which a copyright holder can attempt to have a particular use of copyrighted material removed from the internet. It involves the copyright holder notifying the publisher that they hold the copyright to the item in questions and they believe that the use is unauthorized. The publisher then removes the work from the web page/ftp site/whatever is under their control and notifies the person who posted it. They then have the ability to contest the notice of the first person and have the item restored. After that, if both parties are still in disagreement, the copyright holder can file a civil suit against the poster of said item.

The _current_ problem is that copyright holders aren’t satisfied with the process. The government, at their urging, has decided to remove entire domains from the internet based on the mere accusation of a copyright holder that some item(s) under that domain are infringing on their copyrights.

This is an accusation, not a finding of law. This doesn’t, in fact it can’t, take into account any fair use of the item(s) in question.

Finally, and here we get back to the censorship issue, it’s not a fine grained approach. Everything else at that domain gets removed from the internet because there is a _claim_ that something there is infringing.

There are two major forms of censorship going on here _because_ of the way copyright holders are trying to ‘protect’ their copyrights.

The first is the innocent bystander. If you happen to express anything on a domain that is summarily removed from the internet this way, your message has been _censored_.

The second is the malicious accusation. If you disagree with something someone’s written. Be it a review, or a religious or political viewpoint. You can accuse the domain itself of violating “a” (it doesn’t even have to be yours) copyright, and potentially the entire domain will get seized.

There is no notice, no chance to go before the judge and argue your case. Copyright enforcement (or business plan protectionism) trumps everything else. No rights, no appeal, no nothing.

Darryl wrote:

“Copyright law is applied, and the tools to enable the crime to be commited [sic] are conficated [sic].”

Copyright law isn’t applied. An idealized version of how monied interests think copyright _should_be_ is applied.

Darryl also asked:

“So do you think if they raided a CD burning house, making pirate copies of a movie or music, would they only confiscate the CD that are allready [sic] burned ? or would they take the blank DVD’s and CD, the label printers, the burners, the computers, the master copies ?”

Well Darryl, if they raided a newsroom, they are _not_ allowed to shut it down. They can get copies of certain files, machines, etc. Precisely because of the concern about improperly censoring things. Also, if the police, with a proper search warrant, raid a “CD burning house” the accused has the right to face their accuser, to go before a judge and argue their case, to get their stuff back.

To apply your “CD burning house” analogy to what’s actually happening would be:

Someone claims that you are making illegal copies of a movie or music. The police _do_not_ get a warrant and raid your house. What they do is contact the owners of the apartment complex that you are living in. The apartment owners then throw everyone in the _entire_ apartment building out on the street and change all the locks. They then give the keys to the government.

The accused “CD burners” are locked out, sure, but so are the room that’s used for the knitting circle. So is the free weekly newspaper two floors down. So is the quaint little bar on the first floor that aspiring young musicians go to play. So is every individual that lives in that building, from young single mom to elderly grandfather.

That _wouldn’t_ happen in real life, not even in the case of suspected drug dealers, so why should it be allowed to happen on the internet?

So Darryl, censorship isn’t copyright, but that latter can be used as a tool to commit the former.

Travis Miller (profile) says:

Re: Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

Mike, it’s really semantics, but copyright is kind of a form of censorship (arguably). For the sake of more clearly making your point, I would suggest better adjectives. Instead of labeling this as “blatant” censorship, I would suggest using the words “unreasonable”, “unacceptable”, “unconstitutional”, etc.

Not every time, but just here and there to clarify that some censorship (i.e. restriction) is okay, but this is not. I understand language, and how it is common to use “censorship” to mean specifically the bad kind of restriction, but it isn’t universal. Using these other words could drive your point home more effectively.

Personally, however, I find it quite simple to understand the difference between SPECIFIC censorship (which can be constitutional) and the BROAD censorship in question here (which is clearly unconstitutional).

Jeff Rife says:

Re: Re: Re: Censorship is not copyright, they both start with C but after that they are different

Mike, it’s really semantics, but copyright is kind of a form of censorship (arguably).

Not really. Copyright prevents you from copying someone else’s expression, but does not prevent you from making your own expression. Preventing you from making your own expression is censorship, and that’s what these domain seizures are doing.

In other words, if you could copyright a short phrase, somebody might say “the RIAA sucks”, and you could not use that exact phrase in your expression, but you could say something like “the RIAA are douchebags” without violating copyright.

inc (profile) says:

What the government fails to realize is that without giving people their due process and just taking domain names; it undermines the confidence in the entire Domain Name System. RFC 2826 http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2826 explains this. No one has to use our current root name servers. There have been more then few alternatives, but all users agree to use the same system to ensure we all get to the same web pages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_DNS_root

The bottom line is these seizures do nothing to prevent those that want pirate in doing so. It will just be driving more underground as they will just use “alt roots”, VPNs, and become fully encrypted.

WaitingRoom (profile) says:

You remind me of that kiddie story “Chicken Little.” She was running around clucking and squawking “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Turns out it was a freakin’ acorn.

This ain’t about censorship. There ARE a bunch of scum site out there that STEAL and make money off it. They should be shut down.

Censorship is a bad thing BUT this ain’t it. This ain’t about Wikileaks it’s about scum websites. These dudes don’t give a crap about anything but making a buck. They are not worth defending even for a second.

Wikileaks, on the other hand likely is worth defending.
You are just muddying the waters with your non-stop panic over legit anti-piracy enforcement.

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