Here’s the minimum you need to know about the E-Parasite act that was recently introduced in the House.
In 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act went into effect. In order to give copyright holders immediate recourse in fighting copyright infringers, the bill gives those copyright holders the right to send takedown notices to service providers who are hosting allegedly infringing content. If they speedily comply with these notices, the service providers can avoid legal liability for copyright infringement by their users or customers. This is referred to as a “safe harbor” provision, but it’s basically extortion.
The right to send takedown notices is subject to massive abuse. The Center for Democracy and Technology published a report on the abuse of these notices related to political speech. In 2009, Google reported that 57% of the takedown notices it received were from businesses targeting competitors, and 37% were not valid copyright claims.
Most of the time, the subjects of the takedown notices lack the financial resources to defend their rights, so once a site has been subjected to a takedown notice, it just disappears regardless of whether they were actually infringing on someone’s copyright or not.
The DMCA works well enough if infringing content is hosted by someone who will respond to a takedown notice. Now the copyright industry wants to be able to prevent users from accessing material they deem to be in violation regardless of where it’s hosted. To that end, there are two new bills floating through the houses of Congress, both of which would require that US network operators blacklist any sites that are deemed to be in the piracy business by blocking DNS lookups for their domains. That’s what this is all about.
Earlier this year, the Senate took up PIPA — the Protect Intellectual Property Act. This week’s news is that a corresponding bill has been introduced in the House which is even worse. Both bills implement the blacklist scheme described above, and are of course full of loopholes and vague definitions that would make them even more ripe for abuse than the DMCA already is.
James Allworth explains that the bill basically creates a Great Firewall of America. Even people like Fred Wilson who describe the DMCA as an “excellent compromise” (as opposed to an ongoing travesty) see that this bill is massively worse. Over at TechDirt, Mick Masnick digs into the details of the bill and provides the full text as well.
Now is the time to contact Congress about the bill. Opposition to it is widespread and crosses the partisan divide, so don’t assume anything based on party affiliation.