NYTimes & LA Times Come Out Against PROTECT IP Act As Written
from the good-for-them dept
Well this is a surprise. The NY Times, which had generally (but not entirely) aligned itself with those who seek greater enforcement of copyright laws, has just put out an editorial arguing against passing the PROTECT IP Act, noting that its “broad definitions” are a serious problem and very likely to be abused — especially since the bill includes a private right to action:
The broadness of the definition is particularly worrisome because private companies are given a right to take action under the bill. In one notorious case, a record label demanded that YouTube take down a home video of a toddler jiggling in the kitchen to a tune by Prince, claiming it violated copyright law. Allowing firms to go after a Web site that ?facilitates? intellectual property theft might encourage that kind of overreaching — and allow the government to black out a site.
Some of the remedies are problematic. A group of Internet safety experts cautioned that the procedure to redirect Internet traffic from offending Web sites would mimic what hackers do when they take over a domain. If it occurred on a large enough scale it could impair efforts to enhance the safety of the domain name system.
This kind of blocking is unlikely to be very effective. Users could reach offending Web sites simply by writing the numerical I.P. address in the navigator box, rather than the URL. The Web sites could distribute free plug-ins to translate addresses into numbers automatically.
The NY Times suggests that a rewrite of the bill might make it okay, and does support the general idea of the bill, but worries greatly about the broadness of the bill today.
They’re not the only one. The LA Times — who almost always supports everything that Hollywood supports, on the legislative front — has published a similar editorial, warning that PROTECT IP goes too far and could break the internet. It also advises that the bill not pass as is, and that serious changes should be made.
The main problem with the bill is in its effort to render sites invisible as well as unprofitable. Once a court determines that a site is dedicated to infringing, the measure would require the companies that operate domain-name servers to steer Internet users away from it. This misdirection, however, wouldn’t stop people from going to the site, because it would still be accessible via its underlying numerical address or through overseas domain-name servers. A group of leading Internet engineers has warned that the bill’s attempt to hide piracy-oriented sites could hurt some legitimate sites because of the way domain names can be shared or have unpredictable mutual dependencies. And by encouraging Web consumers to use foreign or underground servers, the measure could undermine efforts to create a more reliable and fraud-resistant domain-name system. These risks argue for Congress to take a more measured approach to the problem of overseas rogue sites.
I have to admit I’m pretty surprised by this. By every indication, the PROTECT IP bill had pretty broad support, especially in the media. Hopefully this will at least cause some of those supporting the bill to rethink it.