Yesterday’s Search Terms …. #SOPA

I am not an expert on SOPA, PIPA, or American Censorship of the Internet; but I do know quite enough about the issue to be extremely concerned.  This blog got an awful lot of traffic yesterday, and it seems that there were a lot of unanswered questions about how this all will affect Canadians.

The following are many of the search queries — what people type into the “search” bar in their browsers — that brought people to this blog yesterday:

  • will sopa affect canada
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  • ameria sensoresjip of the internet effect the world?
  • is canada part of the us censorship
  • is there anything canadians can do to stop sopa
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  • americancensorship.org blocked
  • american internet censorship affecting canada
  • american censorship affect canadian
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American Flag

SOPA and Protect IP (PIPA) will most certainly affect Canada.  These bills assume American governance over all of the Internet used by Canadians.   Under these laws, an American allegation will result, not just in blocking Americans access to Canadian sites accused of infringement, but in Canadian website takedowns.  This is simply unacceptable.  Last time I looked, Canada was a sovereign nation.

If I haven’t answered your questions, please let me know in comments or email (click my avatar image; my email address is posted in my profile), and I’ll address any unanswered questions next week.

In the meantime, for information about the legal ramifications of SOPA/PIPA on Canada, Michael Geist wrote a pretty extensive explanation of the legalities for Canadians in Why Canadians Should Participate in the SOPA/PIPA Protest

You can find information about SOPA from http://americancensorship.org/

… and, of course, Wikipedia has clearly stepped up to the plate on this.

Yesterday, while the US portion of Tumblr was dark, I posted a fair number of screen caps of blacked out sites, as well as reblogging Tumblr SOPA protests on my Tumblr blog.

SOPA and PIPA are bad laws that will very definitely impact on Canadians and our Internet.

flag in winter

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Will “American Censorship” Impact on Canada?

[American Censorship” refers to the two Internet Blacklist Bills currently enroute to becoming law. The PROTECT IP bill is currently before the American Senate, and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is in their House of Representatives. ]

Easy answer: Of course it will.

Website Blocking

The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users
It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Chaos for the Internet

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

American Censorship Day

Q: What is the DNS system?
A: The DNS or Domain Name System is the hierarchy that controls the Internet URL naming conventions. If you want to set up your own website, the current common use is to register a domain name, to make it easy for users to find your website online. In the beginning, domain name registration was free, nowadays there is an annual charge. You can get a domain through a company like godaddy or choose a privacy respecting registrar like the one I use, Register 4 Less which can be found at https://secure.register4less.com/

This means that you can easily find Google at https://www.google.com/ or Josh Woodward’s music at http://www.joshwoodward.com/ or my brother Larry’s humour blog at http://www.larryrusswurm.com/
One of the most important functions of the Domain Name registration is to ensure that there is only one of each name.

Q: How does Internet Black Listing work?
A: It doesn’t actually turn off the website, it simply removes the site’s domain name. In cases of egregious law breaking, such as child pornography or even copyright infringement, this does nothing to prevent the breaking of these laws. The blocked website still exists, and will continue to be accessed by law breakers via numerical static IP addresses.

The ineffectiveness of black listing has actually been demonstrated when the American government sought to censor WikiLeaks. Removing the domain name from the registry does not remove the IP address.

But what it will do is make it easier to block competition and innovation while making it more difficult for users to find the websites they want.

Q: How will Website Blocking affect Canada?
A: The Internet is all over the world.

If Websites are only blocked within the United States, American customers will find it difficult, impossible or perhaps illegal to access these blocked websites. If A Canadian website is accused of infringement, whether real or imagined, this blocking will mean the loss of American customers.

If blocking is done by DNS domain name removal, this will affect websites the world over.

Q: How will the Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users affect Canada?
A: Richard O’Dwyer, a British University Student is currently facing extradition to the United States to face charges of copyright infringement under existing laws.

Need I say more?

Q: What do they mean when they warn about “Chaos for the Internet?”
A: Different laws exist in different countries.

The Internet is comprised of networked connections all over the world.

USA

American Flag hangs downCurrent American law provides for “safe harbors” which protect sites like Facebook, Flickr, and G+ as well as independent blogs and comments from legal liability in the event a third party posts illegal material.

Without this, the Internet will cease to be an interactive medium, because no one, whether independent bloggers or Internet giants like Wikipedia will have the luxury of allowing third party posting.  A malicious edit in Wikipedia could spell the end of the fifth largest website in the world.  YouTube can’t afford to screen every video for potential IP violation.  Most Independent bloggers don’t have legal departments.

Canadian innovation

The Maple Leaf part of a Canadian FlagCanadian law is different than American law. Although Canadians are some of the most active people online, we seem to be users rather than pioneers. Recently Michael Geist appeared before Canada’s Standing Committee on Industry and explained the legal barriers that existing Canadian law has thrown up before innovative Canadian startups that might have become a YouTube, a Google, a Facebook or a Skype.

Canadian free speech

Recently the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the land, established that Canadian Law should “Avoid restricting the free flow of expression.”

Yet it seems that elements of the proposed Protect IP and SOPA laws seek to make hyperlinking potentially a criminal act. Search engines would be compelled to remove links from search results.

existing Canadian copyright law

IP lawyer Howard Knopf shows that Canadian Copyright law is currently far stronger – and more restrictive to creativity – than American Copyright Law is currently.   In Canada we have slightly shorter copyright terms than they have in the United States. I don’t believe Bill C-11 will increase this term if it passes.

Under existing law, Wikipedia is considering removing this photograph of Ontario’s Elmira District Secondary School ~ the school I attended ~ even though it is legal to use this image in Canada, if it is not legal under existing American Law.

This tinted photo of the original school building ~ Canadian history uploaded to Wikipedia by Dconlon268 ~ hung in Elmira District Secondary School when I was a student there more than 30 years ago.

This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired for one of the following reasons:

1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or

it was not subject to Crown copyright, and

2. it is a photograph that was created before January 1, 1949, or

3. the creator died more than 49 years ago.

The media description page should identify which reason applies.

This file is only in the public domain in the United States if it entered the public domain in Canada prior to 1996. This image can only be kept if it is also in the public domain in the US. If it is in the public domain in both Canada and the United States it may be transferred to the Wikimedia Commons.

Note: If this image is in the public domain in the US, modify the end of the copyright tag from “}}” to “|commons}}”. This will replace the preceding US copyright notification with a nomination for this image to be moved to the Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia

Canada is a sovereign nation

Canadian DMCA

It is bad enough that the American government has brought pressure to bear against our government in an effort to compel passage of a Canadian DMCA with Bill C-11 the so-called “Copyright Modernization Act.”

If these American Censorship Laws pass, like ACTA, they will be used to impose American Law on Canada and the rest of the world.

This will affect Canadians, and everyone else.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credits:
Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License

EDSS Old School” Canadian Public domain image, posted to Wikipedia by Dconlon268

The Canadian DMCA logo freed into the public domain CCO 1.0 by laurelrusswurm