The recent Sony Pictures hack revealed that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) had organised a secret campaign against Google, going so far as to pay Attorneys General to do their bidding, due to the perception that the search engine was facilitating online piracy. Now Google has responded to the secret attacks.
“We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means,” Google wrote on their blog on Thursday. “While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part ‘to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression. Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?”
The MPAA is yet to comment on the details of the leak.
It’s no secret that the MPAA are wanting to take stronger measures against piracy, but recent Sony leaks suggest they’re pushing to crack down even harder than they already are; they want to target the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS).
The plan was first proposed as part of SOPA a few years ago, but as many of you know, it failed to pass Congress after a lot of protesting and complaints. New information suggests that the MPAA’s lawyers have been looking for a way to use the tactic under existing law, allowing them to remove offending sites from DNS, effectively removing them from the internet phonebook and preventing people from finding the sites. Of course, the major issue here is, who defines what an infringing site is and will we just end up with a trimmed down internet that only shows sites deemed suitable for us.
“A takedown notice program, therefore, could threaten ISPs with potential secondary liability in the event that they do not cease connecting users to known infringing material through their own DNS servers,” the letter reads. “While not making it impossible for users to reach pirate sites (i.e., a user could still use a third-party DNS server), it could make it substantially more complicated for casual infringers to reach pirate sites if their ISPs decline to assist in the routing of communications to those sites.”
It’s a brute force tactic and one that would be very effective, but currently it’s also illegal to do so. Even current DMCA notices walk a fine line, as they’re often handed out broadly and without proper investigation. Worst case scenario is we end up with people using dodgy DNS servers, exposing themselves to severe security issues in the process.
SOPA may be dead, but those behind it are still trying to find ways of rebranding it and making it law.
The White House has weighed in on the issue of media copyright infringement online, asserting that illegal downloads should be made a felony offense. Alex Niejelow, Chief of Staff to the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and National Security Council’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, said in a statement, “we believe that federal criminal law should be modernized to include felony criminal penalties for those who engage in large-scale streaming of illegal, infringing content in the same way laws already on the books do for reproduction and distribution of infringing content.”
The White House affirmed its position on the matter in response to two online petitions calling for more leniency in intellectual property laws, citing the failed Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) as dangerously restrictive.
According to Wikimedia Russia executive director, “Stanislav Kozlovsky”, Wikipedia Russia is vulnerable to being shut down. The new legislation, which comes into effect on August 1st, states that copyright holders can have websites blocked if they host or link to infringing material. Wikipedia has millions, maybe even billions, of hyperlinks and other content that is user -submitted and impossible to verify. This leaves it in a vulnerable position. Google and Yandex are also worried because they index billions of links too and they are only search engines. Yet the new law proposes to shut them down if they do not remove infringing links found in search results available to Russian internet users.
Google’s transparency report does show that a lot of copyright holders have been quick to try and get Wikipedia pages de-listed in the past. Now that they can legally complain to the Russian authorities they will no doubt jump at the opportunity. Over the past few years Sony, Microsoft, The Publishers Association, Home Box Office and Warner have all complained to Google and asked them to delist certain Wikipedia pages. In most cases Google denied such requests but would the Russian government do the same? Furthermore, would an overload of anti-Wikipedia requests by copyright holders lead to Wikipedia being blocked?
Taiwan were the most recent country to reject SOPA-like legislation and you would of thought governments over the world would have learnt from the public outcry against various attempts to censor the internet. Well apparently not as Russia are pushing ahead with their SOPA-like legislation and it could be implemented within a couple of months.
TorrentFreak has broken the news about the Russian Government introducing a draft bill which has passed through its final two readings in the Russian State Duma as of yesterday. Lawmakers have fast-tracked the controversial legislation despite opposition from both Google and Yandex.
The new Russian proposal now needs upper house and presidential approval to come into effect on August the 1st. The new legislation would allow sites to be rapidly blocked by ISPs on allegations of copyright infringement. Copyright holders can complain directly to the Russian courts if infringing content is suspected. Those websites then have to remove all infringing material within 72 hours or face a full IP address ban. There is great concerabout IP bans as IP addresses can be shared by many sites and dynamic/shifting IP addresses could cause havoc.
“This approach is technically illiterate and endangers the very existence of search engines, and any other Internet resources. This version of the bill is directed against the logic of the functioning of the Internet and will hit everyone – not just internet users and website owners, but also the rightsholders” a spokesman for Yandex said in a statement. “It’s like forever closing the highway, on which there was only one accident.”
Apparently when the legislation comes into effect only TV shows and films are covered but further negotiations are expected to extend that to cover things like video games, books and so on, at a later date.
According to a report by TechDirt there has been public outcry in Taiwan over the government’s proposed copyright bill. Apparently during May the Taiwanese government created and submitted a SOPA-like (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill to combat copyright violations. The legislation was apparently draw up by the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
Yet the public weren’t happy at all and clearly the Taiwanese IPO missed the fact that the internet doesn’t like SOPA wherever it is located and whatever form it comes in. A public blackout begun with Wikipedia Taiwan and Mozilla Taiwan leading the way. In the end the proposal was abandoned without the need for lots of public protests.
Though like many other countries Taiwanese internet users are not out of deep water just yet because the proposal will undergo a process of adjustment and revision and will probably be introduced again in a different form in the hope that the public doesn’t notice and that the authorities can quietly slip it through.
The unfortunate reality is that many government authorities around the world still buy into the belief that the health of the Internet is acceptable collateral damage in this manufactured war on copyright infringement. Lawmakers need to understand that creativity and innovation can only thrive when our platforms remain open, where users are free to share and experiment with content. While it’s clear that the Taiwan Intellectual Property Office did not learn from the mistakes of SOPA and PIPA in the U.S., let’s hope others see the defeat of this latest copyright blacklist law and recognize that users will not put up with efforts to censor the Internet.