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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Censor the Net

Bill Smith, Editor: The below article by Warner Todd Huston addresses efforts to stop the "COIC Act" and to to stop the Obama administration (or any administration) from having the power to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block sites that the government doesn't like.

While Huston words speak for themselves, a major concern of mine is the potential to block the sites /blogs of conservative bloggers. There are numerous political bloggers - left, right and center. Also there are tens of thousands of bloggers who focused on specific topics (e.g., military life style, free speech, abortion, pro-life, gay rights, gun rights, gun control, green turtles, scrap booking, or whatever). Most of these bloggers are not blogging for money. They are writers / pamphleteers on their areas of interest - sharing articles, photos, videos, etc. that interest them with their readers.

For these bloggers / writers who do not write for money or solicit money for stories, there is doctrine under the The Copyright Law identified as the "Fair Use Doctrine" which allows them to even share copyrighted material. Specifically, the "Fair Use Doctrine" allows copyrighted material to be made available to advance understanding of political, human rights, economic, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a "fair use" of such copyrighted material as provided for in section Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

For example this blog (site) is distributed without profit to readers to view for the expressed purpose of viewing the included information for research, educational, or satirical purposes. However, readers are warned: "This site/blog may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. . . . [Based on the above Fair Use Doctrine] . . . Any person/entity seeking to use copyrighted material on this site/blog for purposes that go beyond "fair use," must obtain permission from the copyright owner."

It has become evident that there are members of the Obama administration as well as members of Congress who would like to stop bloggers from addressing issues and stirring up "we the people" with information that leads to calling Washington, D.C. elites into accountability. The Internet with a myriad of sites and blogs, is a powerful tools to protect individuals freedoms and rights, including free speech, to address the abuses of power, to promote transparency and accountability and to share opinions on issues. There has been a noticeable rise in proposals and even potential regulations or legislation floated to silence bloggers and organizations using the Internet to oppose actions by the government.

I do not fear liberal bloggers who have diametric opinions to mine. I only fear a government be it right or left minded that would prevent us from presenting our ideas and information to others.

Huston's article regarding Censoring the Internet reminds us of the approach being used in China to limit any speech the Chinese government does not wish to be shared. This Orwellian idea would be destructive to our free society. I have joined Warner Todd Huston and others in signing the STOP the COICA petition referenced below. Hope you will do so as well. Now for Huston's article.

Don’t Censor the Internet! STOP the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act
by Warner Todd Huston, Publius' Forum: The politicians are at it again. They never cease to amaze for their constantly revolving attempts to take over complete control of the Internet and everything connected to it. This time, in the guise of safeguarding copyrighted material, Congressional Democrats intend to introduce into this zombie session of congress the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA).

COICA would give the Attorney General the power to shut down websites accused of illegally distributing copyrighted material by requiring Internet Service Providers to block such sites from its customers.

Certainly, as a capitalist, I am solidly for protections against copyright infringement, but, as is the case with most things that government does, this bill goes that much too far and offers a threat to freedom of expression on the Internet.

After all, this bill would give the power to block websites to a relatively few number of government officials, a situation ripe for misuse and abuse. Further such overt power could easily chill nascent companies that might shy from investing in new ideas for fear of running afoul of the government.

AT STOP the COICA - DontCensorTheNet.com - Sign the petition.

This bill has even alarmed a group of eighty-seven engineers who played a part in the creation of the Internet.
If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet’s global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but this bill will be particularly egregious in that regard because it causes entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has many concerns over COICA.
If this bill passes, the list of targets could conceivably include hosting websites such as Dropbox, MediaFire and Rapidshare; MP3 blogs and mashup/remix music sites like SoundCloud, MashupTown and Hype Machine ; and sites that discuss and make the controversial political and intellectual case for piracy, like pirate-party.us, p2pnet, InfoAnarchy, Slyck and ZeroPaid . Indeed, had this bill been passed five or ten years ago, YouTube might not exist today. In other words, the collateral damage from this legislation would be enormous. (See why all these sites would be targets?)
Critics of the COICA say that there are already plenty of laws to prevent copyright infringement and this bill would only add uncertainty in an era when economic activity is sorely needed.

I have joined a growing list of individuals and organizations to try and stop this bad bill. This new effort has been launched at DontCensorTheNet.com. Please stop by and sign the petition and let’s send a message to Congress.
____________
Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. political columns are featured on numerous websites. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines.

Tags: Internet, Net, censorship, Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, COICA, Don't Censor the Net, Warner Todd Huston To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 7:41 PM - Post Link

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