Remember SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act about copyrighted material that, if passed, would have allowed the government and various corporations to censor the internet? And do you remember SOPA’s more stringent cousin, ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which is an agreement to create global intellectual property (IP) enforcement standards that reach far beyond current international laws but would have had the effect of killing innovation and shutting down entire websites? Last year, the issue of freedom of speech on the internet reached an all-time high. All around the world people rallied to prevent SOPA, and those rallies ended up forcing lawmakers around the globe to abandon SOPA.
But, as is often the case when there is an attempt to enact sweeping legislation that will affect millions, it’s back. With a vengeance…just with a different approach.
SOPA’s supporters have returned and they’ve teamed up with the main internet service providers (ISPs) on a new “Six Strikes” plan. The ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and Cablevision) plan to have their customers internet access shut down if those customers are accused of piracy and suspected of running afoul of copyright. The problem is compounded by the lack of due process of law; these ISPs can slow customers’ internet connections and even force their customers to stay on a web page until they discuss copyright or go through an educational program. Customers are essentially harassed and held hostage online.
Though ISPs are not law enforcement officials representing police, attorneys or officials from the Department of Justice, they have given themselves the power to tell their customers – who pay for their services – what they are allowed to do with the services for which they are being compensated. Doesn’t that violate the “free internet?”
There are other issues to tackle. According to the Electronic Frontiers Foundation which works to defend rights in the digital world, more pressing actions can and should be taken in order to protect both users and service providers:
- Demand patent reform
- Reform computer crime laws
- Stop the new Internet Surveillance Law
- Protect cell phone location data
And those are just the highest priority items on the list. Those of us who want to see the rights of artists and data producers protected while ensuring that information is readily accessible to millions around the world know that the price of information is continued action.