The Weight of Thought

As a pro-marijuana activist, it’s a joy to watch the Berlin Weed Wall come tumbling down. I even found some pleasure this week in Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement for reduced sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.

It’s not everyday some liberty is yielded back to the people, however small.  Yet my joy is tempered by cynicism.

The private prison-industrial complex could not have been happy with Holder’s recent announcement, but there’s a strange silence. There’s not a single bought-and-paid-for politician coming to the defense of longer prison terms for non-violent drug offenders. So what gives?

Surely there must be intense lobbying efforts underway to stop this.  I mean, any industry evil enough to bribe judges to throw innocent children in cages would clearly scratch and claw for every dollar of potential profit, right?

But what if they can replace drug offenders with other warm bodies — like copyright offenders (file sharers)? The NSA likely has a whole list of offenders ready to go. They’re an easy target as they don’t typically travel in armed cartels. Who cares that they, too, are non-violent offenders? Make file sharing a felony, says the Obama Administration.

The Washington Post reports:
You probably remember the online outrage over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) copyright enforcement proposal. Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force released a report on digital copyright policy that endorsed one piece of the controversial proposal: making the streaming of copyrighted works a felony.

The Digital Rights Struggle wont be Televized because dinosaurs would never help the mammals claim the land of thier dominion
CISPA has already passed the House of Representatives!!!!

CISPA has already passed the House of Representatives!!!!

Another day, another House Intelligence Committee session held in secret, under the rather convenient excuse that “classified information” might be revealed.

As was the case last year when members of the committee amended the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) the first time around — the bill, dubbed a “privacy killer” by online activists and privacy groups, will once again be amended in a veil of secrecy.

According to the committee’s spokesperson, Susan Phalen, (via The Hill), these secret hearings are not uncommon and “sometimes they’ll need to bounce into classified information and go closed for a period of time to talk.”

She said that in order to keep the flow of the mark-up — where rewrites to proposed legislation are made — the committee cannot suddenly stop, order every person and member of the media out of the chamber, only to be brought back in later once the discussions are back on unclassified territory.

The House cybersecurity bill that allows the National Security Agency (NSA) and the military to collect your private internet records is scheduled for an encore appearance on Wednesday. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) will reintroduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which news reports say will be the same bill that passed the House of Representatives last year.

That’s right, the same bill that allows companies to turn over your sensitive internet records directly to the NSA and the Department of Defense without requiring them to make even a reasonable effort to protect your privacy. The same bill that lets the government use the information it collects for cybersecurity purposes “to protect the national security of the United States”—a concept that is, of course, undefined and incredibly expansive. Here we are, ten months later, with a much-deserved veto threat from the administration, a smarter Senate alternative, and an Executive Order that will address part of the information-sharing issue—yet the House starts with the same old privacy-busting bill as before.

A Friday afternoon policy memo is not normally the sort of thing that gets one’s heart racing, but “Three Myths About Copyright Law and Where To Start To Fix It” was an exception. It offered a bracing attack on the conventional wisdom about intellectual property that’s dominated Congress for decades mounted a vibrant defense of competition, and advocated regulation aimed at consumers rather than incumbent copyright owners. Even more amazing was the source. The memo went out on the letterhead of the Republican Study Committee—an organization of House Republicans who think the House Republican caucus isn’t insanely conservative enough—under the names of Rep. Jim Jordan and executive director Paul Teller.

It was an exciting moment for copyright reformers, who were surprised and delighted to find these new conservative allies. But a moment was all it was. By Saturday, Teller had already retracted the memo, claiming it “was published without adequate review” and needed to be “approached with all facts and viewpoints in hand.”

The “Copyright Alert System" – an elaborate combination of surveillance, warnings, punishments, and "education" directed at customers of most major U.S. Internet service providers – is poised to launch in the next few weeks, as has been widely reported. The problems with it are legion.  Big media companies are launching a massive peer-to-peer surveillance scheme to snoop on subscribers. Based on the results of that snooping, ISPs will be serving as Hollywood’s private enforcement arm, without the checks and balances public enforcement requires. Once a subscriber is accused, she must prove her innocence, without many of the legal defenses she’d have in a courtroom. The “educational” materials posted for subscribers thus far look more like propaganda, slanted towards major entertainment companies’ view of copyright. And all of this was set up with the encouragement and endorsement of the U.S. government.

One of the mechanisms that was supposed to ensure some degree of fairness was independent auditing of the P2P surveillance methods used to identify alleged infringers, and of the ISPs’ procedures for matching Internet Protocol addresses to actual humans. But last month, the group set up to oversee the system - the Center for Copyright Information - revealed that its “independent” reviewer was Stroz Friedberg, a lobbying firm that represented the Recording Industry Association of America in the halls of Congress from 2004 to 2009. Needless to say, RIAA’s former lobbying firm is hardly an “independent” reviewer. And CCI could have discovered the relationship between Stroz and the RIAA – it’s on the public record, in reports that lobbyists must file with Congress every year.

Wozniak: Web crackdown coming, freedom failing

Controlling the web

Are US authorities increasingly trying to limit user freedom on the internet in the name of national security?

SOPA reborn by Congress as IPAA