July 6th, 2011
(PaulWatson) – Law professors warn that new legislation allows state to seize websites merely for linking to other websites that host copyrighted material.
New legislation that would give the US government the power to seize website domains on a whim with no oversight merely for linking to sites that host copyrighted material has been labeled a hallmark of “repressive regimes” by a group of law professors who warn that the bill allows the state to “break the Internet addressing system”.
The Protect IP bill, currently stalled in the Senate, represents a death blow to Internet freedom of speech. It would turn the entire web into a clone of the YouTube model, which routinely censors and deletes material when requested to by governments or corporations and shuts down user channels without recourse.
The legislation merely codifies what Homeland Security is already practicing, seizing and shutting down websites without any form of legal proceedings and in many cases not even notifying the owner.
In an open letter penned by Professor Mark Lemley of Stanford University, David S. Levine of Elon University and David G. Post of Temple University, they warn that the bill would require Internet hosting companies and search engines to de-list entire websites on the basis of a mere copyright claim by a copyright holder, with no independent or legal process undertaken.
Even linking to a website that copyright holders claim is in violation of intellectual property laws would be grounds for the feds to seize your domain and impose criminal penalties.
“At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, the [Protect IP Act] would incorporate into U.S. law — for the first time — a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law,” states the letter.
Suggesting that removing websites with no oversight whatsoever is a clear violation of constitutional law as interpreted by the Supreme Court, the professors add that the bill would hand government the power to “break the Internet addressing system.”
“It requires Internet service providers, and operators of Internet name servers, to refuse to recognize Internet domains that a court considers “dedicated to infringing activities.” But rather than wait until a Web site is actually judged infringing before imposing the equivalent of an Internet death penalty, the Act would allow courts to order any Internet service provider to stop recognizing the site even on a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction issued the same day the complaint is filed. Courts could issue such an order even if the owner of that domain name was never given notice that a case against it had been filed at all.”
Search engines, credit card companies and even advertisers would then be mandated to refuse to deal with the owners of the site under the proposed law, making it “extraordinarily difficult for advertisers and credit card companies to do business on the Internet.”
As we have exhaustively documented, proponents of web regulation like Senator Joe Lieberman have openly stated their intention to create a Communist Chinese-style system of Internet policing, handing Obama the power to block entire areas of the web with a figurative kill switch.
Indeed, Amazon’s Cloud network notoriously deleted the entire Wikileaks website from its servers following a phone call made by Senator Joe Lieberman’s Senate Homeland Security Committee demanding the website be axed.
Lieberman spilled the beans on the true reasons behind the move towards web censorship during a CNN interview when he stated “Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.”
During a more recent interview with the network, Lieberman labeled claims that he was working to create an “Internet kill switch” as “misinformation,” yet went on to repeat the same statement that the US government needs the power to “disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war.”
Of course as we have proven, China doesn’t disconnect the Internet “in case of war,” it only ever does so to censor and intimidate people who express dissent against government atrocities or corruption. This is precisely the kind of online environment western governments are trying to replicate as they attempt to put a stranglehold on the last bastion of true free speech – the world wide web.
Read the full letter below.