Thursday, July 7, 2011

Professors' letter against PROTECT-IP

A number of professors have signed a letter to the U.S. Congress opposing Protect IP:
The undersigned are 108 professors from 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico who teach and write about intellectual property, Internet law, innovation,and the First Amendment. We strongly urge the members of Congress to reject the PROTECT-IP Act (the "Act"). Although the problems the Act attempts to address-–online copyright and trademark infringement–-are serious ones presenting new and difficult enforcement challenges, the approach taken in the Act has grave constitutional infirmities, potentially dangerous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet's addressing system, and will undermine United States foreign policy andstrong support of free expression on the Internet around the world.

The most important point raised in the letter is that it is a violation of free speech. Forgetting the constitutional issue in the U.S., isn't it a bad way for people to interact online? Shutting down a DNS address is much like cutting a person's phone access, something that is simply not done unless the person is about to be arrested. The authors accurately call it an "Internet death sentence". It's far overboard.

The letter also raises the issues with secure DNS, but I believe this is a counter-productive argument. Secure DNS is a gift to anyone who wants to cut off DNS records. Sure, PROTECT-IP as it stands might not work, but all that means is that Secure DNS version 2 will be updated to have a government back door. The problems of PROTECT-IP are not technical.

Most of all, I really wish people could be more creative about digital copyright. You can copy bits, but you can't copy skill. Thus, we would do better to sell skill than to sell the bits that result from them. We can make that change, but expect Hollywood to fight it.

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