[IRP] Letter about PROTECT IP Act for Sign On

Jochai Ben-Avie jochai
Fri Jan 13 18:59:22 EET 2012

Hi friends and colleagues,

Hope that everyone?s new year is off to a good start. Over the holiday
break, the PROTECT IP Act (or PIPA, the Senate companion legislation of the
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House) has been heating up, and is
coming up for a major vote on January 24th. If they win the vote, this
terrible legislation will almost certainly become law in some form.

Problematically, PIPA is seen as the compromise bill. Worse still, many
people in DC are saying that they haven?t heard any opposition to PIPA (a
lot of opposition has been directed at SOPA), and making claims that there
are no human rights implications ?because this bill only deals with piracy.?

The letter that we wrote about SOPA a few months back (
https://www.accessnow.org/sopa-letter) was delivered to the members of the
House Judiciary Committee and at a meeting with the White House IP
Coordinator, a member of the President's Council on Economic Advisors, and
the Deputy CTO of the US. We were told by many people that it had a real
impact and helped to push the discourse in the right direction, so much so
that we've written another letter on behalf of the human rights community
about PIPA (which is attached and below).

**If your organization is interested in signing this letter, please let me
know no later than Monday at midnight EST (GMT-5).**

I?ll be down in DC with reps from a few other organizations to deliver the
letter in person to a number of senators over the next two weeks. If your
organization has someone in DC and would like to be a part of these
meetings, let me know.

This letter has already been reviewed by many organizations, and given the
very quick turnaround that's needed on this, this is going to have to be
the final draft. If there are serious issues that would prevent your
organization from signing, please reach out to me off list.



P.S. If you?re interested in learning more about the PIPA cloture vote on
the 24th, check out this post:

Here's the letter:

Dear Majority Leader Harry Reid,

As human rights and press freedom advocates, we write to express our deep
concern about S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and the threat it poses to
international human rights. Like H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act
(SOPA), PIPA requires the use of internet censorship tools, undermines the
global nature of the internet, and threatens free speech online. PIPA
introduces a deeply concerning degree of legal uncertainty into the
internet economy, particularly for users and businesses internationally.
The United States has long been a global leader in support of freedom of
speech online, and we urge the Senate not to tarnish that reputation by
passing PIPA.

Today, some of the world?s most repressive countries, like China, Iran,
Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Syria use DNS filtering as a means to silence
their citizens. As over 80 human rights organizations recently wrote in a
letter opposing SOPA, ?institutionalizing the use of internet censorship
tools to enforce domestic law in the United States... creates a paradox
that undermines its moral authority to criticize repressive regimes.?# In
fact, PIPA would send an unequivocal message to other nations that the use
of these tools is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

DNS filtering is a blunt form of censorship that is ineffective at
achieving its stated goal, while causing collateral damage to online
communities on a massive scale. But while DNS filtering is trivial for
users to circumvent, this technology would fundamentally undermine the
integrity of the global internet, making users more vulnerable to
cybersecurity attacks and identity fraud. Additionally, any legislation
that mandates filtering of websites is prone to unintended consequences,
such as overblocking. For example, in early 2011, when the Immigration and
Customs Enforcement agency seized the domain mooo.com, it accidentally
removed the web addresses of 84,000 (almost exclusively legal) connected
domain names.# Moreover, once the technical infrastructure enabling
censorship is in place, it allows future governments (and private actors)
to block virtually any type of content on the web, making the provisions of
this bill prone to mission creep.

The attempts at due process provisions in this bill do not respect the
global nature of the internet. The network effects of the internet are
realized when users and innovators are able to connect around the globe.
However, creating a mechanism that requires a representative of a website
to make a court appearance in the U.S. in order to defend themselves
against an allegation of infringement would disproportionately impact
smaller online communities and start-ups based abroad that do not have the
capacity to address concerns in the United States. These websites would
risk losing access to advertising services, payment providers, search
engine listings, and their domain name. Together, these pieces of the bill
would drive international innovators away from depending on U.S. services
as a hedge against legal threats, while missing what should be the target
of this legislation: preventing large-scale commercial infringement.

PIPA further creates a double jurisdiction problem, whereby non-U.S.-based
sites must determine whether a site is legal in both the country it is
operating in and the United States. This raises serious concerns about the
scope of the bill, as foreign websites falling under PIPA?s definition of
infringement may be perfectly legal in other jurisdictions. For example,
the domain of a Spanish site, rojadirecta.org, was seized in early 2011 by
U.S. authorities without adequate due process, notification to the site?s
owners, or an option to defend themselves, despite having been declared
legal by two Spanish courts.#

The definition of ?information location service? is overly broad and would
have a chilling effect on online speech. PIPA would make nearly every
U.S.-based actor on the internet, including not only blogs, chat rooms, and
social networks but users as well, potentially subject to enforcement
orders of the bill. Additionally, the requirement that these service
providers act ?as expeditiously as possible to remove or disable access? to
an allegedly infringing website imposes an unprecedented burden on any
service that contains links, incentivizing the screening and removal of
content in order to avoid being caught up in legal proceedings. Further,
even if an accused website is later found to be innocent, links to that
website could have effectively disappeared from the web, having been
permanently removed when the court notice was served.

PIPA is also vague with respect to how links would be defined, including if
all links associated with a domain or subdomain would be required to be
blocked and if this would apply to future attempts by users to post
content. This provision could potentially be interpreted in a way that
would force services that allow users to post links to proactively monitor
and censor the activities of their users, dramatically altering the role of
these platforms in promoting free speech and setting a dangerous precedent
for other countries.

We understand the pressure that lawmakers face in passing copyright
enforcement legislation, and agree that protecting the rights of creators
is an important goal. However, enforcement should not come at the expense
of free speech or due process. This bill is fundamentally flawed due to its
wide range of restrictive and potentially repressive measures. Even if
individual elements of the proposal, such as DNS filtering are modified,
postponed or amended, the legislation as a whole represents a precedent
that is a real danger for human rights on the internet. We must remain
conscious of the fact that the internet is a key enabler of human rights
and innovation, and decisions over its governance should not be made
hastily and without full consideration of collateral consequences.

We strongly urge the Senate to stand for human rights, defend the open
internet, and reject the PROTECT IP Act.



Jochai Ben-Avie
Policy Director
Access | AccessNow.org
P: +1-347-806-9531 | S: jochaiben-avie | PGP: 0x9E6D805F
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