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The Continuing Assault on Internet Freedom - via US Statute - is evidently is not going to stop anytime soon.
Article from
Secret Bill Pushes Part of SOPA and Wastes Your Money
SpoilerBy Michael Weinberg  | July 10, 2012

A mere 5 months after SOPA and PIPA met their very public demise, a new intellectual property enforcement bill is on the fast track through the House Judiciary Committee.  The bill, which was largely secret until a day before it was scheduled to be marked up, is an attempt to revive an idea that was killed as part of SOPA earlier this year.  In addition to being a surprising attempt to develop intellectual property (IP) legislation in secret again, it highlights a phenomenal waste of taxpayer resources.  After all, what is going to improve our copyright system more: international IP attaches or being able to look up who actually owns a copyright?

The bill itself establishes an “intellectual property attaché program.”  Among other things, the program creates a new Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and seeds intellectual property attaches in U.S. embassies across the world.  The people in this program will basically be tasked with patrolling intellectual property rights for private US rightsholders.

Secret Bills Are a Nonstarter
Before getting to the substance of the bill, perhaps the most shocking thing about it is how it is being handled by Committee Chairman Smith (who was a driving force behind SOPA).  If Congress learned no other lesson from SOPA and PIPA, you would think that they got the message about not developing IP-related laws in secret.  But you would be wrong.  This bill leaked, fully formed, over the weekend and was scheduled for markup today.  Needless to say, this came as a surprise to just about everyone not directly involved with drafting it and provided a very limited opportunity to meaningfully participate in the markup process.  Step zero for any new IP bill should be a transparent drafting process.

Do We Really Need More Officials In Charge of IP?
While the intellectual property attaché program may be new, the idea of using government officials to police intellectual property rights for rightsholders is not.  We already have, to name a few examples, an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, Office of Intellectual Property Rights at the Department of Commerce, Office of International Intellectual Property Enforcement at the State Department, Office of the Administrator for Policy and External Affairs – Enforcement at the Patent and Trademark Office, National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, Office of Intellectual Property and Innovation at the United States Trade Representative, and Intellectual Property Task Force at the Department of  Justice.

And remember, we still do not have anything approaching an Office of Innovation.

Cost Effective Ways to Improve Copyright
The real embarrassment here is that this entire debate is playing out while the Copyright Office is desperately trying to modernize our system for registering and tracking who actually owns copyrights.  Today, there is no way to electronically search the Copyright Office’s records for works registered before 1978 (some of which will still be protected by copyright in 2070).  In order to search those records you have to pay the Copyright Office $165/hour (2 hour minimum).  Additionally, the electronic registration process for new works has a months-long processing backlog.  As a result, only a tiny fraction of copyrights that are actually registered are easily searchable by the public.  This means that it is hard to find rightsholders in order to license their work or pay them for use.

And for most things the Copyright Office does not take credit cards - check or money order only.

These shortcomings are only the tip of the iceberg.

If we were serious about making the copyright system work better, step one should be to make sure that there is any easy way to figure out who actually owns what.  After all, it is hard to pay a creator if you can’t find them.  But instead, Rep. Smith decided to prioritize a secret bill to send government officials hither and yon in search of, well, something

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The role of "IP attaches" is defined in this Slashdot news item re Lamar Smith's efforts to apparently introduce new US legislation to control Internet freedoms.
SOPA Provisions Being Introduced Piecemeal From Lamar Smith
Posted by Soulskill on Tuesday July 10, @04:30PM
from the will-be-hard-to-blackout-the-internet-every-other-week dept.

bricko sends this disappointing but not unexpected news from Techdirt:
"While it didn't get nearly as much attention as other parts of SOPA, one section in the bill that greatly concerned us was the massive expansion of the diplomatic corp.'s 'IP attaches.' If you're unfamiliar with the program, basically IP attaches are 'diplomats' (and I use the term loosely) who go around the globe pushing a copyright maximalist position on pretty much every other country. Their role is not to support more effective or more reasonable IP policy. It is solely to increase expansion, and basically act as Hollywood's personal thugs pressuring other countries to do the will of the major studios and labels. The role is literally defined as pushing for 'aggressive support for enforcement action' throughout the world. ... In other words, these people are not neutral. They do not have the best interests of the public or the country in mind. Their job is solely to push the copyright maximalist views of the legacy entertainment industry around the globe, and position it as the will of the U.S. government. It was good that this was defeated as a part of SOPA... but now comes the news that Lamar Smith is introducing a new bill that not only brings back this part, but appears to expand it and make it an even bigger deal."
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I have nothing polite to say, except for that we knew that they'd be back at it sooner or later with the same crap.

@Renegade: Well you might be able to say something polite about this, or at least smile about it:
Internet Defense League creates "cat signal" to save Web from next SOPA
Mozilla, reddit, lawmakers, even a Tea Party activist team to protect the Web.
by Jon Brodkin - Jul 19, 2012 5:45 pm UTC

When the Internet is in danger, the cat signal will appear.
Internet Defense League

You've heard of the bat signal—now get ready for the cat signal. A diverse crew of Internet businesses, advocacy groups, and lawmakers has banded together to create something called the Internet Defense League. The organization seeks to save the 'Net from bad laws like SOPA. And a cat signal—modeled after the signal used to rouse Batman each time Gotham City is threatened—is what the group will use to alert the world when it's protest time.

When the SOPA blackout day helped convince Congress that the Stop Online Piracy Act was a bad idea that would threaten Internet freedom, it showed how democracy can be used in the digital age to preserve the interests of people above the interests of corporations lining the pockets of politicians. But can the Internet rally to save itself each time it's threatened?

Enter the cat signal. A piece of code supporters of the Internet Defense League can embed in their websites, the presence of the cat signal will tell you another bad law threatening Internet freedom is making the rounds, and that it's time to call your local member of Congress. The cat signal is also being broadcast today on sites like Fight For the Future to announce the Internet Defense League's creation:

Yes, the signal was inspired by all those funny cat pictures on the likes of reddit and I Can Haz Cheezburger (two of the founding members of the Internet Defense League). But the League has prominent members who take Internet regulation very seriously.

"I recently gave a talk about being Batman or being Batwoman for your respective Gotham," said Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of reddit (a sister company of Ars). "This is like a call to arms for all the people who are creating something online. Whether they have a Twitter account with 20 followers, or they have a website with 35 million visitors, they all have a Gotham, so to speak, to protect. They all have a community they want to keep strong."

Internet Defense League founders said spotlights will be used to project actual cat signals into the sky today at live kick-off events in New York City, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. But the cat signal will more importantly be a digital signal that can be planted on websites to protest future attempts to censor the Internet.

"This digital signal is a critical component of how IDL works; it's code that lets any website or individual broadcast messages to their personal networks in an 'emergency alert system,'" the group said in its announcement. "When the Internet's in danger and we need millions of people to act, the League will ask its members to broadcast an action. (Say, a prominent message asking everyone to call their elected leaders). With the combined reach of our websites and social networks, we can be massively more effective than any one organization."

reddit is just one of many members in the Internet Defense League. It also includes a Tea Party activist, Mozilla, WordPress, Fark, Imgur, Tor, BoingBoing, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of the European Parliament (which recently rejected the AntiCounterfeiting Trade Agreement). Congressmen including US Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), US Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), and US Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) are also on board.

Ohanian and several other members got the word out about the Internet Defense League this morning in a somewhat chaotic conference call with reporters. (Imagine lots of noisy people not on mute and everyone trying to speak over everyone else because there's no established order for reporters to ask questions).

Moran said he wasn't necessarily expecting Internet freedom fighters to win the war against SOPA, but thought the battle was worth fighting anyway. The protest's ultimate success was gratifying, and helped preserve the abilities of businesses to innovate by using the Internet, he said.

"We have patted each other on the back and congratulated each other for that success, but I would say these battles, including the ones specifically related to SOPA and PIPA, are not behind us," Moran said. "And Congress has the habit of doing things without much forethought, without understanding these issues, particularly these tech issues, are ones many members of Congress don't have a complete understanding of. I think… individuals with expertise, knowledge, and a passion for the Internet have a great role to play in making certain the policies developed by Congress are ones that are advantageous to the Internet, and from my perspective advantageous to innovation."

Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman said the scale of the Internet makes it possible—for the first time in human history—for anyone to publish anything, speak to anyone, or start a business without permission from someone else, and that right needs to be preserved. "We've made a huge bet on the Internet," Surman said, calling the Internet Defense League "a group of creative people who are excited about what the Internet can be as an open system."

Mark Meckler, co-founder and former national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, said the Internet Defense League's nonpartisan, people-centered approach is ideal for protecting the Internet from the tendency of politicians to over-regulate. "The Internet is not the problem. The Internet is the solution, so the Internet Defense League is here to help be the solution and prevent government from intruding on that which has the chance to save society," Meckler said.

The Internet Defense League has the code ready for download. But there are questions about just how it will work in practice, such as who decides when to broadcast the cat signal, and how the decision made. Group leaders didn't present a specific method, but said it will be modeled on the way things become memes or viral on the Internet.

Just how to measure "viralness" hasn't been determined. But group members will hold discussions amongst themselves, and pay attention to what's happening on the Web at large. For example, if posts about a bill on Internet issues make it to the front page of reddit ten times in a row, there's a good chance the Internet Defense League would take a look and see if it's worthy of action.

One threat being monitored by group members is the Senate version of CISPA (the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act). One reporter asked if net neutrality is on the agenda, but no specific commitments were made.

There's always the possibility that not every member of the group will agree that a certain threat is actually a threat. While the cat signal code can be automatically triggered, members can also choose to turn it on a case-by-case basis, deciding for themselves which events are actually worth protesting.

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Another one happening now.



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