Currently, U.S. copyright policy on the Internet is handled through a series of laws, principally: the Copyright Act of 1976, and Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which which provides four safe harbors to liability for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). It also governs how rightholders can challenge copyright infractions and go after the alleged infringers. While far from perfect, these laws provide important protections for fair use of copyrighted works and create legal safe harbors to shield third party intermediaries from liability (e.g., sites that host content generate by Internet users).
In 2011, Congress proposed legislation that would have reduced or eliminated these safe harbors and provided more tools to bolster accusations of infringement. The bills, known as PROTECT IP in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives, were supported by powerful industry trade groups like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). But online communities, including Wikipedia and the social news site Reddit, recognized the threat these bills posed to the Internet and on January 18, 2012, these sites and thousands of others joined in an online "blackout" protest of unprecedented scale. After millions of e-mails and tens of thousands of phone calls to legislators, the bills' supporters agreed to shelve both of proposals.
The U.S. does not have a formal disconnection policy for ISPs, although under Section 512 of the DMCA, individual websites must cancel the accounts of "repeat infringers." There is no strict definition of “repeat infringers” and is usually determined by individual company policy.
However, in July of 2011, major telecom companies and ISPs struck a deal with big content providers to help them police online infringement, "educate" allegedly infringing subscribers and, if subscribers resist such education, take various steps including restricting their Internet access. A lengthy “Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) was released laying out the details of the agreement.
The MOU calls for the creation of a new organization, called the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), to administrate the six-strikes system. CCI will be governed by a six-person executive committee comprised of representatives from content owners and Internet access providers. A three-person advisory board will include members "from relevant subject matter and consumer interest communities," who will be given the chance to speak up whenever the executive committee asks.
Internet access providers can punish accused subscribers by interfering with the subscribers’ connectivity, including by slowing transmission speeds, temporarily restricting web access for "some reasonable period of time," and conditioning web access on completing a "meaningful copyright education program." These mitigation measures can be imposed solely on the basis of the content owners’ assertions, without a judge ever determining that the subscriber did anything wrong.
The MOU does create a process designed to protect subscribers from unfounded accusations and punishment, but it’s hardly due process, and can be read about in more detail hereread more...
Currently, there are no U.S. laws mandating large-scale filtering or blocking of websites. Federal laws requiring ISPs to filter material to the general public have been ruled unconstitutional, though none have dealt directly with copyright.
However, the Department of Homeland Security has asserted authority to seize specific domain names.
Under the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, the U.S government would be given more power to force DNS providers to block domain names and blacklist websites. In essence, the Attorney General can force the domain name provider, servers, search engines, payment processors, and advertisers to stop doing business with alleged infringing websites—essentially “disappearing” the site off the web.
SOPA would also allow rightsholders to directly force payment processors and advertising networks to cut ties with a site simply by sending a notice alleging the site (or a portion of it) is enabling, facilitating, or taking steps to “avoid confirming” infringement. Rightsholders can also enforce these notices through court orders. In addition, payment processors and advertisers would be given immunity if they voluntarily stop doing business with a website as long as they had a “reasonable belief” that the website was engaging in infringing activity.
This type of action acts as indirect censorship; without a revenue source, the alleged infringing site will starve to death.read more...
Data DisclosureCreated by: law
Section 512 of the DMCA lays out the takedown and notice procedure copyright holders must comply with to compel websites to take down alleged infringing material.
When issuing a takedown notice to a website, rightsholders can also get a subpoena to unmask the alleged infringer. To comply with the statute, the rightsholder must go to court and provide a copy of the takedown notice, identify the alleged infringing material, and where the ISP can find the material on its site. If the website is properly served with the subpoena when it receives the takedown notice, it must hand over the identifying information to rightsholder.
When unmasking users of peer-to-peer services, rightsholders have generally followed the model of those filed by the RIAA starting in 2003. Rightsholders begin by suing unnamed “John Does” then seek to subpoena the ISPs of users in order to obtain their identities. They can then sue the individuals themselves.read more...