On Monday, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, US Senator Ron Wyden was interviewed by Jon Heilemann of New York Magazine about a range of legislative issues, including his opposition to the PROTECT IP Act.
PROTECT IP is a bill which would mandate the creation of a domain name blacklist based on accusations from law enforcement and private companies accuse of copyright infringement. ISPs would be required to use DNS filtering to prevent their customers from reaching those domains.
In part, PROTECT IP is simply pointless since it’s trivially easy to simply change your computer’s DNS settings to route around the affected servers. At the same time, it would set a dangerour precedent by giving private companies law enforcement powers and dealing a significant blow to due process.
Wyden is no stranger to laws which pit content producers against Internet services. In the 1990s he was one of 2 US legislators to get language inserted in Communications Decency Act to shield Internet service providers from liability for their users’ actions.
Last year it was thanks to Wyden that a bill nearly identical to PROTECT IP called COICA (Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeits ACT) was killed. Just last week, it was Wyden who sent a letter to President Obama demanding the ACTA agreement be submitted to the Senate for ratification since it is effectively a treaty.
On the subject of PROTECT IP, which he has publicly criticized as an attack on free speech, he said on Monday:
“Let me just go right to the question of the so-called PROTECT IP legislation – the question of intellectual property. What this is at its heart is a question of whether one part of our economy, the content sector, can use government as a club to go after another part of our economy which is the innovation sector and everything that the Internet represents.
The PROTECT IP ACT, when you really strip it down, is about whether or not you’re going to have arbitrary seizure of domains, whether or not you’re going to have these vague standards for going in an seizing a domain. And then, something I think is particularly ominous, ceding a significant portion of the authority over the Internet to private companies. In effect allowing them to bring private rights of action.
So I have put a hold on this legislation. I’m the sponsor of the effort to get rid of these secret holds. I announce everything publicly, because I think this legislation, in its current form, would take a significant toll on both freedom and innovation. And particularly now, where the digital space is one of the most exciting parts of an economy where we’ve got some tough times, I don’t want to let that happen.”
Among other points, he talked about the security issue Paul Vixie of the Internet Systems Consortium explained to AfterDawn back in August. “This PROTECT IP Act could actually harm responsible efforts at cyber security, because some of what is done kind of mimics what hackers do, and we’re against hackers getting into domains.”
Senator Wyden made it clear that he is not against protecting intellectual property rights, but also that PROTECT IP is not the way to accomplish that. He called PROTECT IP’s approach, “the equivalent of using a cluster bomb when you ought to go in there with a laser.”
You can watch the entire interview for yourself, which covers a range of topics from net neutrality to geolocation privacy to secret interpretations of the law by the government.