The entertainment industry in the United States is one of the most influential industries in America, despite only making up a small percentage of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Between the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), the entertainment lobby is one of the most powerful in the country. Despite stated goals of protecting First Amendment rights, these organizations are currently pushing for the passage of a bill that would give the federal government the ability to effectively pull any site from the internet and control what parts of the internet U.S. citizens are allowed to visit.
Two versions of the bill are currently circulating the House and Senate; SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and the PROTECT IP act. In the name of protecting the intellectual property of corporations and individuals, both acts would give the Department of Justice the power to seek court orders against websites outside U.S. territorial jurisdiction, and to require Internet service providers, ad networks, search engines, and sites like Paypal to cease doing business with any site accused of infringing or facilitating the infringement of copyright, and prevent access to the target site.
One of the main ways to prevent access to a blocked domain is through DNS blocking. DNS (Domain Name System) servers take a url like www.facebook.com and translate it into an IP address assigned to that system. DNS blocking requires the servers to intercept the url and prevent a connection to the IP address. This is the system used in Cuba and China to censor the Internet. Because of the global nature of the Internet, DNS blocking often causes problems for other Internet users. Chinese censorship has blocked users in America and South America from accessing Twitter or Facebook. In 2008, a Pakistani attempt to block a YouTube video briefly blocked the entire site for two thirds of the Internet.
Any site can have a court order filed against it, leaving the stability of the internet in the hands of federal judges across the U.S. If this bill passes, Social Networking sites would have to become highly restrictive of link sharing, lest they risk enabling piracy. SItes like DropBox and other data storage companies would probably cease doing business with the U.S., to avoid lawsuits. The Department of Justice an institution that has supported torture and warrant-less wiretapping will now be able to control what sites we visit, what we read, and what we watch. All to increase the bottom-line of the entertainment industry.
PROTECT IP and SOPA are the most dangerous bills in Congress since the Patriot Act. And if you’ve been to the movies, bought music off iTunes, used Netfix or Hulu or Spotify, you’ve put money into the pockets of the people who wrote it. The RIAA and MPAA won’t stop trying to censor the internet as long as they think it hurts their business. If you like the free, open internet that’s brought people together and organized protests that brought down dictatorships, then boycott business’s that are members of either organizations.