Thursday, November 17, 2011

My letter to Sen. Durbin regarding the PROTECT IP Act

Senator Durbin,

I am an Illinoisan and an ardent supporter of investing in things like education, the environment, the arts, science. When I hear people criticize programs like welfare or universal health care as 'socialist', I cannot help but wonder how they could possibly consider that a bad thing. And when people complain about our high taxes, I realize that good programs require good funding and counter that, besides the imbalances in the tax system, I believe everyone's taxes are too low! I am unabashedly liberal. (Well, barring drill weekends; I find it best to keep my politics to myself there, as we of leftward leanings are very much in the minority among the military ilk). And it is no stretch to say that yourself and Senator Patrick Leahy are easily among my favorite people in our capitol.

It was a surprise to me then, to find myself rooting for someone as conservative as Sen. Ron Wyden (he voted for DR-CAFTA, for crying out loud) in his opposition to Sen. Leahy's PROTECT IP Act.

I understand the value of intellectual property and its importance to copyright holders. But whatever the perceived benefits of this act are, I find it difficult to believe that they are sufficient to justify the very real harm that will come of the intentional wholesale corruption of the Domain Name System. The estimated cost to the federal government may be only $47 million. The cost incurred by service providers in implementing and maintaining the counterfeit DNS will be much, much higher. And unlike profits, costs do have a tendency to trickle down.

But far more important than the financial costs of implementation are the social costs of enforcement. I myself have a small home server that, among other things acts as a DNS server for my local network (or, rather, I will again once I replace some parts). Should I have a criminal lawyer on retainer?

Furthermore, while many individuals and organizations targeted for lawsuits by major copyright holders are undoubtedly guilty of infringements, many of the larger 'victims' are just as guilty of abusing the court system and legal bullying of people engaging in fair use. These companies and interest groups have already demonstrated, time and again, a complete lack of the ability, desire, or both, to exercise any restraint in whom they target. Any site lacking the means to take on the legal teams of the media giants would be subject to dealing in parody, satire or any other fair use could be subject to the copyright holder's censorship.

Be sure, if PROTECT IP passes, it will not be employed as a defensive tool for protecting the intellectual property of creative individuals. It will be wielded as offensively and indiscriminately as every other legal weapon these group have wielded in the past. The inability of these rent-seekers to accept the fact that they are entrenched in an obsolescing business-model is no justification for punishing the Internet community at large.

Please reconsider your position on this bill. Neither the Internet nor America has any use for censors.


Charles ...

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